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Mother's Day Means More When You Don't Know If You'll See Her Again

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb
The Truth Network Radio
August 4, 2023 3:02 am

Mother's Day Means More When You Don't Know If You'll See Her Again

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb

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August 4, 2023 3:02 am

On this episode of Our American Stories, Scott Jones, the author of Growing Up Rural, shares the story of a boy named Leo and some special letters from war that he wrote to his family. 

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Live preseason games are subject to local blackouts. And we're back with our American stories. Up next, another story from our regular contributor from Iowa, Scott Jones. Scott's the author of Growing Up Rural. And today he brings us the story of a boy named Leo. And it's all about his time in the Navy and some special letters from the war that he wrote to his family.

Here's Scott with the story. Leo enlisted in the Marine Corps on February 4th, 1942, in Des Moines, Iowa, at the age of 22. He joined the Marine Corps because he felt they were the toughest group and felt he could outshoot most anyone.

At least that's what he had told his younger sister, Helen. Growing up, he was a sharpshooter bagging squirrel, rabbit and pheasant on the family farm. But he also joined out of a sense of duty to his country and the war effort to maintain our freedom. He was shipped out to San Diego for basic training before heading overseas to the South Pacific Islands. In San Diego, he became both a rifle and pistol sharpshooter, as well as completed radio school. From San Diego, he was shipped over to New Zealand. He loved the beauty of that country and spoke often of his time there before being shipped out to the South and Central Pacific. He served with the 3rd Marine Division for 18 months, where he fought enemy forces on the islands of Bougainville, the British Solomon Islands, Guam and the Marianas Islands, and served as radio chief of his outfit, as well as carried a machine gun and a pistol. He didn't talk much about his times on the islands and what really took place there. I know from one of his friends, who was in the same unit as Leo, that they saw a lot of fighting and death. All he could say was that it was horrific.

This was true for many of the World War II veterans. Before shoving off, he wrote his sister Helen a letter telling her that he was going to use a certain code in his letters to let her and the other family members know where he was at when the letter was written. He wrote, now when a letter is received, some place in it you will find.

Say hello to blank for me and then you'll know. So for example, he wrote say hello to Mabel, which meant Australia. Or say hello to Betty, which meant Pearl Harbor. Or say hello to Lois, which meant England.

Or say hello to Eileen, which meant New Guinea. And in that particular letter to his sister, he had placed 20 different locations where he might have been found while writing a letter. He also did report back via local newspaper that while on Bougainville, his and other soldiers' clothes were eaten up by the moisture and their shoes rotted off their feet. It was on this island where he told his sister Helen that during one battle, they fought for three days and three nights nonstop.

They had to ration their water to one full helmet a day. After fighting enemy forces, they were so exhausted that they threw brush over the dead bodies of the enemy and slept on top of the brush. He was wounded on the island of Guam. He was in a foxhole with three other soldiers and a mortar came flying in. He was knocked unconscious for a time and when he came to, he saw that he was the only one left in the foxhole. Shrapnel had flown into his chest and gut. He said that you learned to pray in a foxhole.

I believe many soldiers have said the very same thing. For the next three months, his parents did not receive any letters from him and became extremely worried. Fearing that he was missing in action or worse. He was taken out of the front lines and shipped back to Pearl Harbor. And from there, he was shipped to the Navy hospital in San Francisco. They finally received a letter from him stating, To dispel your fears, I am okay and getting the very best of care. Don't let it ever be said that the Navy doesn't take care of its own.

Medical care is the best as is quarters and the food. He was later honorably discharged on January 26, 1945. His wife Alice tells that for many nights after their marriage, Leo would wake up sweating with terrible nightmares from the war and what he personally had witnessed. He was like many World War II veterans who did not like to talk much about their experiences during the war and held them close to his chest. Now Leo was truly a patriot. He loved his country and taught his family to love this country and the freedoms that he and so many others had fought for.

On his farm back in Iowa, he had a flagpole and flew the American flag daily. Now during his time in basic training in San Diego, on May 9, 1942, he wrote a letter to his mother on Mother's Day, sharing his heart for her as they were so far apart for the very first time. He wrote, Dear Mom, this is the first time, Mom, Mother's Day has rolled around, that we were so awfully far apart. Looking back, it does not seem as if Mother's Day in the past has meant so much as it does this year. Perhaps we were all a bit careless in observing this priceless heritage. Or perhaps we didn't stop long enough to think about how wonderful our mother really was. I assure you, Mom, it wasn't that we didn't care. But you see, we all had you right there with us.

And we sort of forgot that this one special Sunday was reserved just for you. Somehow, Mom, your loving kindness overlooked all our mistakes. And you said nothing, though I know you must have inwardly hoped for some little token of remembrance. And now, Mom, now that we're so far apart, that realization of how wonderful a mother really is, and how I miss her on this, her day, is brought shockingly home. Mom, this Army life isn't so bad when a fellow thinks that it's for the purpose of keeping freedom and peace on Earth. But gee, I miss you. It seems only yesterday that I was still a boy.

And nearly run you crazy, patching up skinned toes and a million other things, a boy gets wrong with him. Perhaps you were just a little young then to know the sacrifices a mother gave for us. But we're all men now, boys at heart maybe, but serious-minded and with a set purpose. That purpose, Mom, is to make this world safe for mothers like you, to rear their family in. I know that God will be with us, for He is always on the side of the righteous. But our only concern on this Mother's Day is that God will watch over you and guide our footsteps home to Mother again. Mom, I'm going to stop and give thanks to God for the privilege of claiming a mother as wonderful as you. You see, dear Mom, I love you. Perhaps I shed a tear or two as I write this, but I'm proud of it. May God be with you forever, your loving son, Leo.

The Scriptures state, Honor your father and mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the Lord your God gives you. Leo demonstrated his love and care for his mother as they were so far apart during those days of World War II. He wrote that letter, possibly for fear that he may not see his mother again. She held that letter dear for many years. And a great job on the production by Madison, and a special thanks to Scott Jones for telling the story of Leo and his service to his country during World War II. You learned to pray in a foxhole, Leo wrote. And he also wrote that beautiful letter to his mother. And my goodness, we learned from Scott that Leo, like so many others, didn't talk much about his time fighting in the islands.

And that is so true until Stephen Ambrose and Band of Brothers. We rarely heard from the men and boys and women who served our great country overseas in World War II. The story of Leo as told by Scott Jones here on Our American Stories. For each person living with myasthenia gravis, or MG, their journey with this rare condition is unique. That's why Untold Stories Life with myasthenia gravis, a new podcast from I Heart Radio in partnership with Argenics, is exploring the extraordinary challenges and personal triumphs of underserved communities living with MG. Host Martine Hackett will share these powerful perspectives from real people with MG so their experiences can help inspire the MG community and educate others about this rare condition.

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Whisper: medium.en / 2023-08-04 04:28:38 / 2023-08-04 04:33:40 / 5

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