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Monday, May 30, 2011

My Dad's Silent Witness for America and Freedom

I've shared before the effect of my dad's WWII Army injuries had on me. He did not talk much about his service on the front lines in Germany in late 1944. 

In reading over the war history, my sister and I learned dad (James R. Brooks) enlisted in a special officer training program that was based at Purdue and was called up because Eisenhower had a severe shortage of infantrymen.

Bradley lacked 17,000 riflemen because of casualties of prolonged combat and the severe weather in Europe.  Also, at this time Eisenhower made a momentous decision and allowed African-American soldiers who had been assigned to service units to be able to volunteer for duty as combat infantrymen and committed to front line service.  The Army had been forced to discard its policy of segregating white and black soldiers.

We never knew the details, but we knew dad was injured, nearly died, and spent time recuperating in a US hospital. He returned to the Uof I, met and married my mom when they were working together at the Daily Illini. 

As a kid, seeing the big scars on his back and on the backs of his legs spoke volumes to me of his love of his country and his fight for freedom.  He had a limp, but he never complained. When retired, he sold poppies for the VFW. My mom actually called him "Poppy."   Before he died in 2003 they found shrapnel in his leg when he finally complained.

He set a great example for us and I have tried to pass along that example to my kids.  Loving America, loving another person, loving our neighbors does require personal sacrifice.  At the time, my dad didn't realize his sacrifice and willingness to lay down his life for his country would impact daughters yet to be born.  He's  been gone now 8 years, but his legacy lives on in his daughters and grandchildren and great grandchildren.

Today, as I left the Memorial Day service, I found the brick I had made in my dad's honor. I smiled. I miss him.

Thanks, Dad, for all you did! And thanks to all the others for your sacrifice as we remember you today. America--and freedom are still worth fighting for.

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