“And the soldiers likewise demanded of him, saying, And what shall we do? And he said unto them, Do violence to no man, neither accuse any falsely; and be content with your wages.” (Luke 3:14)
That passage is from the story of the ministry of the prophet John the Baptist. I think it’s interesting that SOLDIERS came to hear John the Baptist and be baptized by him. When they asked him, “What shall we do?” John NEVER told them to stop being soldiers! On this Memorial Day weekend, we remember those men and women who served our country in uniform and who gave the ultimate sacrifice for their country.
This Memorial Day, I’m remembering my father. My father, Eugene A. Baril was a World War II vet. Now, he never saw action in World War 2, (NOT all World War 2 vets did, many served the entire duration of the war on bases in the U.S.A.) but he’s still classified as a World War 2 vet. Dad graduated from Mechanic Arts High School in Boston (on the site of the present Prudential Center) back in 1940, and then went for two years to the post Graduate program at Boston Trade School. He was in his final year at Trade School when December 7, 1941 took place.
Shortly after graduation from Trade School, Dad enlisted in the Army in June of 1942. He had a tough time getting in for two reasons: reason one is he had flat feet, and reason two is he had a couple of mildly deformed fingers on each hand- they were slightly smaller and redder than normal and couldn’t spread apart from each other very well. Dad tried to enlist one day, and was refused. He came back another day and the recruiter said, “I had a guy with fingers like these come in JUST THE OTHER DAY!” It wasn’t like today when filling recruiting quotas is like pulling teeth. So many guys were enlisting that the recruiter didn’t remember that Dad was the SAME guy! He got in!
Dad enlisted in the Army Air Corps which later became the U.S. Air Force. He enlisted “for the duration of the war”. Dad was accepted in the pilot training program. The Army Air Corps had pretty strict requirements for their members. No Airman could be tattooed, for instance. My father’s education was not considered quite up to par, either. Along with a number of other young men, he was sent for a semester to Syracuse University to take several college classes.
Dad was stationed for awhile in Mississippi and for quite awhile in South Carolina. While in Mississippi, he worked part-time at a slaughterhouse! It really bothered my father to see the lambs come in to be slaughtered, and from that time on, he would never eat lamb. (It reminds me of that Scripture passage in Isaiah 53 about being led like a lamb to the slaughter.) Much of the flight training was in Camden, South Carolina. When our family took a road trip to Florida in the summer of 1965, Dad drove to the base and remembered his time at the barracks there. There were memories of practical jokes played on certain men in leadership, etc. The pilot training program was very strict. There were several phases the men had to pass through. At each phase, a bunch “washed out”. My father made it through all but the final phase. He was devastated to “wash out”. My sister and I are amazed he didn’t make it, because he became an excellent pilot and an accomplished flight instructor for the Civil Air Patrol. But his story is that the guy checking out the pilots was a tense, gruff man who was impossible to please. My father later learned that this guy had flown mission after mission after mission in Europe. He had experienced some pretty rough stuff. They’d sent him back to the States and given him the “easy” job of checking out the young pilots, but he was really in no shape to be doing that.
By this time it was almost 1945, anyway, and my father’s status was changed to aircraft mechanic. He served until the end of the war and was discharged. The service had a profound effect upon my father. He would frequently be whistling revile, or the song to “come and get the chow, men”. He used to do impersonations of one of the officers who was from the D.C. area and thus used to pronounce the word “out” with that distance D.C. or Canadian version of “out” which sounds like “aauuwwt”. Dad would announce, “When ya file AAUUWWT...I want ya ta file AAUUWWT!” I never met that officer, but I somehow FEEL like I did! Dad also had a slight hearing loss from the noise of the aircraft engines and so was discharged with a “disability” (I think a 20% disability- something like that). It qualified him to be a Disabled American Veteran. He belonged to a D.A.V. post in Dorchester, although like many, he almost never attended their functions.
Dad was 19 when he enlisted and was 22 when he was discharged! I can’t IMAGINE learning to fly military aircraft and doing all the stuff he did AT THAT AGE! Like many baby boomers, I guess when I was a kid, I really didn’t appreciate all that my Dad and his generation did for us during World War 2, but this weekend, I remember.
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