An Extra Weekly Column
By Joseph Walker


      Dec. 7, 1941, was a beautiful Sunday morning for George and Verda.  But then, EVERY morning had seemed beautiful since these childhood sweethearts were married the previous September.  They had loved each other since . . . well, for as long as either one of them could remember.  And now they were looking forward to a long and happy life.


      Of course, George had to finish college first.  And there was the little matter of unrest in the world.  As a member of the Reserve Officer Training Corps, George was duty-bound to help the war effort if he was needed.  But the Army had promised to allow him to graduate from college before they called him up, and George and Verda were confident that the trouble in Europe would be under control by then.

      The events of Dec. 7, 1941 – “a day that will live in infamy” – changed all that.  Suddenly America was fully engaged in a world war with no end in sight, and George and Verda knew their long and happy life was about to be interrupted.  They cherished the time they had together, refusing to consider all of the awful possibilities while speaking mostly of what they would do after George came back – the two of them, and the baby who would be born two months after George left for training.

      George was assigned to the 13th Army infantry as it made its way through France and into Germany.  He didn’t write much about his war experiences in his letters home – he didn’t want to worry Verda – but war historians suggest that the fighting was brutal, and casualty rates were high.  Verda stayed close to family – both hers and George’s – and tried to stay as busy as she could.  She tried not to wonder and worry about what her husband was doing Right Now; instead, she preferred to think about Someday, when they would once again be together.

      When she received word that George had been killed in combat Verda was devastated.  She had known and loved George her whole life, and she couldn’t imagine a future without him.  Family and friends tried to encourage and comfort her, but she was inconsolable.

      “This isn’t right,” she would say over and over.  “This wasn’t supposed to happen.”

      In fact, it DIDN’T happen.  At least, not the way she was originally told.  George and his patrol had indeed been caught in a treacherous crossfire, and most of his comrades were killed.  George was also hit – a German bullet destroyed his right knee.  But a medic dragged him to safety, and he was immediately taken to an Army field hospital.  Somehow in all the confusion his name was added to the list of the dead.  But he was very much alive.  In pain, but alive.

Nearly a month passed before the error was corrected and Verda found out that she wasn’t a war widow after all.  George was transferred to a stateside hospital, where she could travel to visit her not-so-late husband.  By the time he was released from the hospital the war was over, and he returned to Verda, their daughter and that long and happy life they had planned.


      These days Verda doesn’t remember much about the years that have passed since then.  She sits in her comfortable chair, surrounded by many of the beautiful ceramic figurines she has created through the years, while George – still slightly hobbled by the injuries he received in Germany – tenderly cares for her.  Most of the past 50 years are a blur to her.  But she vividly remembers when George went to war.

      “They told me he died,” she says.  “But he didn’t really die.  Then he came home and we were a family.”


— © Joseph Walker

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