It was a beautiful day in early October 1944 with bright sun and clear blue skies. I was 2 months shy of my 13th birthday. My parents had gone to visit some friends with Aunt Martha and Uncle Floyd who were visiting from Maryland. I decided to ride my bike over to my Grandmother’s house on Montell Street. We had a nice visit, as always and had a cup of tea together.
After leaving Grandma’s house I stopped at Kobrins Drug Store and bought an ice cream cone. When I got back to my house I sat on the front stoop enjoying my treat when a boy rode up our sidewalk on his bike and handed me a telegram. It was from the War Department so I brought it into the house to show my 16 year old brother, Bob. Together we opened it and read the message.. .“The Secretary of War asks that I assure you of his deep sympathy in the loss of your son Private Richard W. Blafield report received States he died Nine September in France as result of wounds received in action letter follows J A Ulio the Adjutant General.”
In tears we held each other and sobbed, still not believing that our beloved brother had been killed in action, He had been just 19 years old, Only 14 months before, he had graduated from Port Richmond High School with honors. He was a gifted violinist who had been a member of the All City Orchestra in New York City. When his unit had been in Rome he had gotten hold of a violin from somewhere and played for the soldiers in his outfit. He had survived all through the Italian campaign from Anzio. He had been in the invasion of Southern France. The Germans were in retreat. How could he be gone?
The worst on that terrible day was yet to come. We had to break the news to my parents. But how to get them home first? Bob called the home where our parents were visiting. He spoke first to the lady they were visiting and asked to speak to our Dad. He told her about the telegram so that she could take him aside privately to tell Dad about its contents.
I’ll never fathom the strength that dad had, but somehow he needed a pretext by which to tell mom the reason that they had to return home. He told her there was a surprise awaiting her. Thinking that Grandma had come for a surprise visit she was delighted. As my brother and I watched them walk to our house, mom and her sister, Martha were laughing happily. My brother Bob said to me, “Look at how happy mom is now, for it’s the last time you’ll see her smiling like that for a long, long time.”
Dad and Uncle Floyd were following behind mom and Aunt Martha. Dad’s face was like stone. When they walked into the living room and mom looked around for her surprise, she looked at dad’s face and she knew. She screamed as he began to sob and take her into his arms.
Yes, war is hell. And yet we species of human beings seem not able to learn. All around the world we fight and we cause pain to one another and force the youth of our countries to give their lives, for what? Thousands upon thousands of young men and women die year after year after year, decade after decade after decade, century after century after century. Yet the perpetrators of these horrors sit in high places of power, safe, secure, and smug; greedy with the spoils of war.
My heart goes out to every member of our military who sacrifice their lives for us. And my prayers are with their families. I pray too, that someday we may find an eternal peace. I’m 82 years old and I still grieve for the wonderful brother that war took away from me. I wonder about the life he might have had, Surely he would have married and had children. He adored children. He loved his music and had such a great talent. Maybe he would have played in a symphony orchestra. On this Memorial Day, I hope you took time to think about all those who have given their lives so that we may be free in our country and live in peace.
The writer lives in Myrtle Beach