May 28, 2007
I was but 6 , he 18. His name was Cecil. and he was my only brother. Tall, lanky and handsome in his uniform he reminded me a lot of Gary Cooper, a kind of " aw shucks, maam " polite young man. He'd never been out of town but soon he was on a ship crossing the Pacific ocean to Korea. It was 1950 and the Korean war was in full force. He hugged us goodbye in his quiet, shy way .
" I'll be back soon, " were his last words.
How we prayed every night for his safe return. We sent care packages and letters as often as we could. He never complained about the harsh conditions he faced. We didn't know until later that he almost lost his feet from frostbite in the coldest winter in Korean history. Once he went for supplies and when he returned his entire regiment was wiped out. He was one of the lucky ones.
He sent all his paychecks home and Dad saved every penny to buy a car for him when he came home. Three agonizing years later, one summer eve, we heard a car winding down our country road. Cecil rushed out yelling, " I'm home ! " We were overcome with joy to have him safe and sound. He was so proud of the car that he bought with his own money. It was the first car in our family.
Times were tough after the Korean war - high taxes, and unemployment. Cecil went to school on the GI bill and became a Civil Engineer working on the Great Mississippi. The American flag flying from my front porch is for you and all the fallen soldiers.
I thought he would live to be a ripe old age, as is the custom in our family, but he died at 65 from a lung disease he got from working in the coal mines as a young man in Alabama.
He was given a military funeral befitting a veteran of the war. I know he would have been proud. We three sisters selected the song " You are the Wind Beneath my Wings. " It was very fitting : " Did you ever know that you're my hero....?" Yes, he knew that he was the hero of his younger sisters. He protected us just as he fought to protect our nation's freedom.
Every memorial day I think of him, my brother, my hero.