Thursday, May 29, 2014

The horrors of war forged bonds that even jailhouse bars could not weaken

    Memorial Day has passed, and I suppose I'm a day late and a dollar short in sharing this story.
    My uncle, Danny Hurdle, served in the Pacific for most of World War II. He used to love to tell us about stealing a sack of apples and a large bag of sugar in order to make "Apple Jack." The sugar and apples were poured into some type of barrel in the woods and allowed to ferment. When Uncle Danny went out after a few days to sample his concoction, he discovered after taking a swig that he had stolen not a large bag of sugar, but of salt.
    But service in World War II was about a lot more than funny stories of failed attempts to make Apple Jack with salt. My dad said that if Uncle Danny had a few drinks he might mention his war service, and that often he would weep over the horrors that he and his friends endured.
    And these friendships did not end. I remember one war buddy from Pittsburgh visited Uncle Danny while I was a teen. He and his wife were kind of loud and Yankees with two capital Y's, if you could spell it that way. But Uncle Danny clearly loved his old friend.
    For whatever reason, Uncle Danny was assigned to a unit that was made up almost entirely of soldiers from Hillsboro, Ohio. In the late 1960s dad was going full-blast in the Ohio real estate market, and Uncle Danny was partners on a couple of deals around Hillsboro, Ohio.
    The man who was closest to Uncle Danny during the war was from Hillsboro, so naturally the first thing he did when he arrived in the county was to attempt to locate his old friend. And he did -- at the county jail. His friend was the town drunk, and spent most of his time in jail.
    And so, on each trip to Ohio, Uncle Danny spent a good bit of time at the county jail, visiting with his old friend. Uncle Danny wasn't worried about what people might say if they knew his good friend was in jail. And his friend was glad for the company.
    Wars are about great battles won or lost; we often hear tales of great bravery. But the real story of war is that of my Uncle Danny and his jailhouse friend, and tens of thousands of others just like it.

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