Expense Paid Global Trip Was Normal For This Generation
by W. P. Sissell
Several of the surprises in my life have been sudden weather changes. How well I remember the off-loading of the troop transport, William S. Wiegel, in Le Harve, France. I do not remember any snow in Le Harve but do remember marching in deep snow at Camp Lucky Strike—from the same storm that enveloped the area of the Battle of the Bulge—which we knew nothing about at the time.
Our home was a squad tent. Pete Howell and I had one to ourselves. The next day I, along with a section of men were moved to a little French village, FeCamp, where we were quartered in a bombed out building. My men could see the stars through the roof of their room. We guarded our guns there.
Back home, on the Mud Line, I would probably have been searching for rabbits. Joe Stribling, years ago, had taught me how to find them in the snow. At any rate I had fun just trudging through the white fields.
In the 50s we didn’t have the accurate weather forecasts that we are privy to today. In the early 50s I picked corn all day in my shirt-sleeves with our new M Farmall and mounted two row picker. In those days we seldom put antifreeze in a tractor—it was too expensive and we usually drained the tractors in cold weather.
It was not yet cold weather (November 5th). When I opened my eyes the next morning I could see nothing but white. My father had gotten up at two o’clock, as he often did, to make a cup of coffee. Noticing that it was snowing, he drove down from Taylor to the Mud Line to drain the tractor.
If you are not aware of the lettering above, it stands for Veterans of Foreign Wars. There are certain requirements for membership—which I along with most of my generation meet. We all came along when most of us got an expense paid long stay, somewhere on this globe we call the earth. Not long after graduation (some before graduation) we were off on that trip. You never knew when a few days difference would make in your life. My trip was to several European countries. I was in Germany long enough to learn to “navigate” in German.
As I looked around I saw men whose trips would cover most of the globe. At the left end of my table sat Lee Rowsey and Larry Browning, both Vietnam veterans—had known one another most of their lives but did not know that they were in Nam at the same time. You should have heard their conversation about the different places they had been. Lee and wife, Kathleen, got to spend, I think they said about a month (or was it week) of R and R in Hawaii. Larry and wife, Patsy, fellow members of Mount Olivet Church, made claim to no such privilege. To my right sat one of those men, Billy Smith, who flew those giant bombers non-stop for a long time (When my son and his class-mates were in high school R.O.T. C they got to help refuel one of those “big birds,” in flight), somewhere in the west. One gentleman announced that today was his 63rd anniversary. On that date in 1945 he was shot down over Germany.
Toward the east end of the hall I spied “Monty” Randolph and wife, Betty. Monty and I attended Mississippi State together. I’m sure he can tell you something about Korea. Close to Monty I spoke to “Red” Hudson. Red will tell you, unabashedly, that he lied about his age to get accepted in the service (I think he says he was 15 at the time). Red recently gave a program at the meeting of the Pan Gen’s . He presented three, about four inch thick, volumes containing the stories of people (men and women) who had falsified their age to get accepted into the service.. I stopped for a minute to compliment Red on his presentation.
A few tables over I saw and spoke to Howard –(I’m not going to fully name Howard). I taught his children and taught with some of his kin. What stories he could tell but he doesn’t like to relate them. Howard wears an ETO ribbon with three battle stars. A man in that area of the room was recognized as having survived the death march in the Phillipines. A former member spent time in Japan working in a coal mine by day—chained to a dog house at night.
There were probably 150 or so (including the wives for it was ladies night.) These meetings happen in almost every community of this great country—and yes we already have some members that got a trip to Afghanistan and Iraq. They fly in now rather than going by boat. They’re your neighbors—don’t ever forget them.
That white stuff is disappearing outside—thank goodness I don’t have any cattle to feed today—just some grand children’s horses. Our wish for you is a great week. Our jonquils and pears are gone but there’ll be another year.
You can reach me most of the time at 23541 Highway 6, Batesville, MS 38606, firstname.lastname@example.org or 662-563-9879.