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Reflecting on Dad’s heroism this Veterans Day

POSTED: November 7, 2010 1:30 a.m.

My dad was a man who never talked much about his service in the Army. In his sock drawer, were a couple of medals I didn't appreciate until I was grown.

One was the Purple Heart, the other was the Bronze Star. My dad was shot by the enemy on two different occasions in World War II. His lingering health challenges were the battle scars he bore.

He died when I was 24. I was too young and too busy to appreciate his courage and valor. His war records, which I obtained years later, indicated he was pretty good with a gun. One of his discharge papers listed his proficiency with a machine gun. When he mustered out at the end of the war, there wasn't a big demand for machine gunners.

I don't know if his machine gun abilities resulted in an enemy casualty. He never said.

He was a part of the Third Army, under the command of Gen. George S. Patton. He spoke a little about Patton when George C. Scott portrayed him in the 1970 movie.

Dad went to a couple of his Army reunions, but I get a sense that aside from seeing his buddies, some of the memories may have been too much for him.

He was a quiet man who held his emotions in check. I never saw him cry. He had a face that was lined with saggy wrinkles that all seemed to turn upward when he smiled. He had a wry sense of humor that would manifest itself in some unusual ways.

He loved listening to baseball on the radio. He would sit out on the front porch swing on summer nights and listen to Pete, Skip and Ernie on WSB. He loved to watch Red Skelton, Bob Hope and Bing Crosby on TV.

Dad left high school to join the Army and he never got his diploma. In my efforts to learn more about him, I talked to a records clerk at the Atlanta Public Schools. She told me he was a good student. I was not surprised.

He had a hardscrabble upbringing. His dad, a clerk for a lumber company, died suddenly when my dad was just a boy of four. His only remembrance of the episode was getting to ride in a car for the first time in his life.

His mother brought her four boys to Atlanta, where she would work as a private duty nurse.

They lived through the depression and then came the war.

This week, as we remember those who have worn the uniform of our great nation, my thoughts turn to my dad, one of the thousands of that greatest generation.

Dick Blackwood earned a sergeant's stripes in addition to his two medals. There's a part of me that wishes I could have known more about his wartime service. But those medals tell me that he was an American hero, in addition to being mine.

Had he lived, he would be 92 and would be a grandfather to three and a great-grandfather to three more.

I think of him on Veterans Day and every day.


Harris Blackwood is a columnist for The Times. His column appears every week in Sunday Life.

 

 



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