Saturday, July 20, 2013

A Long Ago Innocent Romance

The year was 1917 and the U.S. had just joined the ferocious fighting of World War 1. Young men, even some under the age of 18, were recruited to fight the war.

All of the combatants on both sides of the war were young men remarkably like one another and they were all directed to if need be, die for the cause. Millions of them were killed.

18 year old Jim was among the American boys who would soon face combat and to lift their spirits before they were shipped overseas, the U.S. Army in the Boston area hosted a major celebration in their honor.

But many of those boys were far from home so the Army publicized the event and appealed to mothers to send their daughters to a well chaperoned patriotic party and dance.

"I remember it like it was yesterday," 95 year old Sara told me, some 80 years later. "My sister Grace was 18 and she was going to go. Because I was just 15, I had to get permission from our mother and she gave me permission to go with Grace.

"It was at this event I met Jim. He was lonely and he was fearful about going off to war but as we talked, he began to smile and relax.

"Looking back on it now, I realize he was just a boy and I can still picture him in my mind. Later when it was time for Grace and me to leave, he asked if he could write to me and if I would write back to him.

"It seemed innocent enough and he seemed so earnest, I said yes.

"Soon he was shipped off to war and his letters began to arrive. He witnessed terrible things in battle and he was scared, but he liked very much when I would share stories about my life and tell him of my hope for happier times to come.

"Through these letters, as he wrote about his family and about his life before the war, and the education and career possibilities he hoped to pursue after the war, I felt like I got to know him.

"He wanted to become a teacher so he could influence young minds the way his favorite teachers had influenced him. He had a younger brother who thought the world of him and he had a little sister he had always been protective of and who used to follow him around.

"His letters arrived regularly and I came to look forward to them as I would think about all the good things in my life and in the world that I could share with him.

"But suddenly his letters stopped. I wrote to him but there was no reply.

"Then one day a letter arrived from his parents. They said their 18 year old son Jim had been killed in the war. But they also wanted my family and me to know how much my letters had meant to him and how much of the content of those letters he had happily shared with them.

"They thanked me for all the happiness and comfort I had brought to Jim and how deeply meaningful it was to them that I did that. The whole family was in mourning and in tears but knowing I had brought so much joy to Jim during such a difficult time in his brief life was something that comforted them and something they would always be grateful for.

"It is so long ago," Sara said with a sigh. And then after a moment of silence she softly added, "Why must these young lives be sacrificed? Why must families bear so much pain. I can only wonder now what Jim might have become and all the lives he might have touched."

Note: This story was taken from real-life events and was told to me by the 95 year old woman I referenced. Print Friendly and PDF

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