The Good War
I worked with a man named Charlie years ago in Houston. I’m sorry, I’ve forgotten his last name. When we met he was nearing retirement age.
He was one of the very first Americans into Berlin at the close of World War II. He told me there were dead bodies everywhere; soldiers, civilians, dogs, horses, mules. The health threat was imminent, and there was no time for formalities. It was his job to drag the corpses, humans and animal, and toss them into the basements of bombed out buildings. Bulldozers would push rubble on top of them.
He was 18.
It was almost fifty years after those events when he told them to me. He didn’t tear up exactly, but his eyes became distant and vacant, like he was looking at something far off, near the horizon; the thousand-yard stare.
He wanted to move up in the chemical company we both worked for, but he didn’t have the cut-throat mentality that environment demanded. He was compassionate. He was empathetic. He was kind. They used him up and tossed him aside.
He contracted cancer and took early retirement, and died not long after. His stories went with him.
Too many people remember the victory parades. Too many people remember the arrogant posturing of generals MacArthur and Patton. Too many people remember the glory and the riches that followed.
Not enough people remember Charlie.