Banks County Opinions...

JUNE 2, 2004


Column

By: Shar Porier
The Banks County News
June 2, 2004


For my war hero
While standing alone in the room filled with Civil War memorabilia and the old wool uniform at the old White home site, it got me thinking about war and battle and warriors.
Something prodded an old memory. A photo of my Gramps in his World War I uniform, his helmet cocked just a bit, a silly grin on his young face. He stood so tall, so proud, at attention, rifle by his side. It made me smile.
Then another photo flashed. This one was taken the day he came home. There was a stark contrast. It was hard to believe it was the same man. Gone was the youthful glow, the innocence. His eyes so bright just two years before were hollow and dark. They held such sorrow, such agony. Though the war was over and the enemy vanquished, this soldier still carried all the carnage with him. Each medal that lay on his breast coat seemed more a burden than a measure of honor.
Gramps never talked about the war much, even when Dad’s friends came by for a cold long neck and the war stories would start, he didn’t join in. He didn’t swap stories.
There was only one time I ever heard him talk about it. And that was quite by accident. We had gone over to Uncle Pete’s house, his best friend and my Grams’s brother. Uncle Pete had served in World War I as well, in different infantry unit. As always, I crawled up in Gramps’s lap and actually had almost nodded off as they talked about their day and going fishing that weekend. When the first story began, any thought of napping ended. I lay there, still, quiet in his arms, head against his chest, listening to his quickening heart.
Uncle Pete asked: “How do you make the horror of it go away? Why were we supposed to just go back to our homes and wives and live like nothing had happened?”
His voice quavered.
Gramps replied: “I don’t understand it either. I still live in the trenches. Forty years have gone by and I still hear the horses cry. The hiss of the gas. I still see the men lying, choking, gasping for air….”
There was silence.
That was all they could say, all they wanted to say or remember, willingly.
Many years later, long after he had died, I came across a book he had bought home about World War I. I picked it up and when I opened it, I got my first real glimpse into the tragedy he had endured on a daily basis for two long years.
It had been printed in England by the British military. I suppose it was meant as a chronicle of an event that shook the world in its time. But, page after page held image after image of the gut-wrenching, heart breaking, nerve-shattering reality of that war. There were the horses Gramps had spoken of. They lay wounded and dying next to men in American uniform. There were the soldiers in gas masks rising up from the trenches through eerie clouds that illuminated weapons firing. Soldiers hung dead from fences, shreds of uniforms stained dark with blood. It seemed like utter chaos.
There was no way to even begin to imagine what it must have been like to be there on that hill. I was totally unprepared for what I found between those covers. There was nothing like this in our history books. This was not Hollywood. This was not a John Wayne movie.
No war is.
Today, I wished I could go home, to go to his simple grave, like we used to do on Memorial Day. Grams and I would gather up flowers from her garden. He liked lilacs the best, so we would cut big bouquets to place in the urn at his grave. Then, at the very last minute as we’d pile in the car, with Dad patiently waiting behind the wheel, she’d let me persuade her to pick just one white rose.
It was a special thing between me and Gramps. He’d always give me the first white rose of the season, picked just before it burst into full bloom. He’d brush it against my cheek. I can still feel its softness, smell the fragrance. I know I always will.
Tomorrow, there’ll be a white rose bush planted in my garden. Just for him, for my war hero — the man who managed to shut out the unendurable for the love of a child.
Shar Porier is a reporter for The Banks County News.

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Column

By: Jana Mitcham
The Banks County News
June 2, 2004

Another go at the lazy river
It’s hard to believe, but it’s been almost a year since I wrote a column about getting married and going to Playa del Carmen, Mexico, for our honeymoon.
By the time this column is printed in the paper, Zach and I will be back in Playa del Carmen, celebrating our first anniversary.
In fact, when this section of the paper was put together here at the office on Tuesday, June 1, we were probably lounging out in the sun, admiring the contrast of the white sand and blue-green water while we toasted a happy year and many more to come.
(I offer a thank you here to all the people at work who are picking up our slack!)
When the paper goes to the newstands on Wednesday, we’ll have had a day of snorkeling and another go at the lazy river at Xel-Ha – but this time we are going prepared, leaving ourselves a whole day at the nature preserve to simply drift along with the current of the river, rather than paddling frantically in a desperate attempt to reach the bus leaving for the Mayan ruins at Tulum.
When the Thursday phone calls start coming into the office about something that was printed — or not printed...well, you get the picture. Blue water. Sun. Lounging. Relaxation.
As the craze of end-of-school-year events, spring sports, meetings, called meetings and feature assignments often had us heading in opposite directions days, evenings and weekends over the past weeks, we’ve found ourselves really looking forward to a week of relaxation together.
Rich, chocolatey coffee with fruit and bread in the mornings on “our” balcony overlooking the ocean. The breeze off the water blowing the curtain and the sound of the waves through the open window in the evenings. Swimming in the swells off the pier where the Cozumel ferry docks.
Nothing to do unless we choose to do. Wonderful.
While last year’s trip was special, being our honeymoon, I think this year’s trip back to Playa del Carmen will be even better because there are so many things we’ve looked forward to for months. And while we were decompressing last year from all the last-minute wedding details and wondering what our “being married” meant, this year we have a happy year of marriage behind us and our future ahead.
Jana Adams Mitcham is features editor for The Jackson Herald and a reporter for MainStreet Newspapers, Inc.


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