I realize Memorial Day is for the sake of deceased service members whereas Veteran’s Day is for those who served and survived their time in the military, but I don’t personally know anyone who died while serving. Thus, I want to tell a quick story about my grandfather from WW2.
My grandfather, Robert Boyd Hawkins, never spoke much about the specifics of his time in the military. Sometimes he didn’t even seem that interested in WW2 history, instead preferring to read about the Civil War. I’m not sure if the reason was that he had lived it and had enough or if he had just learned so much over the years that his interest for the 21 years I knew him happened to be focused on other wars. As I said, I never heard much about his time in the military. I do know the details of one story, though. I’ve told this to so many people over the years, it’s possible I’ve written about it and I just don’t remember. If that’s the case, too bad. I want to retell it.
At my grandfather’s funeral in 2006, my great uncle (my grandfather’s brother) told the veteran- and family-packed room a few stories. For instance, before going off to war my grandfather told his younger brother he would pay him $10 if he read War and Peace. He made the offer for little more reason than a keen interest in seeing others learn something. But that isn’t the story that really sticks out in my mind. The one that stands most prominent is from my grandfather’s time on the island of Bougainville in the Pacific.
As I said, I don’t know all the details of my grandfather’s service record. I know he was stationed on Bougainville which was occupied by the Japanese in 1942. Allied forces took the island back over the next three years. Most of the details can be found through the link above, but what won’t be found is this: One morning the American troops were waiting in line for a special breakfast. I don’t know why it was special on this particular day, but it was. The crown jewel? Eggs. As many eggs as anyone could eat. But these wouldn’t be the easiest yolks to obtain. While the men waited in line, the Japanese began shelling the area. Everyone ran for cover, leaving the eggs at the mercy of fate. Well. Fate and a very hungry man.
As everyone dashed for their foxholes and whatever else could protect them from the fury of the sky, my grandfather dashed for the eggs. He grabbed everything he could carry. As soon as he filled his hands and, I like to imagine, perhaps his helmet, he ran to relative safety. There he shared his bounty with his fellow servicemen.
I would hazard they were the best eggs anyone has ever had.