Epilogue to War and Home

Norris Piggie Caldwell

Dear Jim,

In 2000, I wrote a book entitled, War and Home.

It was the story of what the people did back home during World War II.

A friend called me and said he had re-read the book. He said that with America in the state it is now, the Epilogue of War and Home should be put in the paper.

I am sending you a copy of the Epilogue and if you think your people would get a message from it you have my permission to publish it.

Still enjoy the Courier each week. Piggie

Epilogue Aug. 19, 1998 —Tupelo, Mississippi

My wife and I have just returned from watching the magnificent movie, “Saving Private Ryan,” starring Tom Hanks. The movie is the story of a squad of American soldiers, commanded by Captain Miller (Hanks), whose job it is to go deep into German held territory and rescue Private Frances Ryan. Private Ryan’s brothers had already been killed in combat, and the Chief of Staff, General George C. Marshall, had said that he wanted Private Ryan brought out at all costs. From the start of the movie, with its accurated portrayal of D-Day and the carnage of the landing, the movie depicts the trial of Captain Miller’s squad as they try to reach Private Ryan.

After Private Ryan has been located, Captain Miller and his squad participate in a brutal battle where Miller is mortally wounded. Before Captain Miller dies, he calls Private Ryan over and whispers in his ear, “Deserve this.”

At the close of the movie, a much older Private Ryan has returned to a cemetery in France and finds the grave of Captain Miller. With tears in his eyes, Private Ryan turns and looks at his family, who has accompanied him to France and says to his wife, “I did live a good life, didn’t I?”

In a much earlier movie, “The Bridges at Toko Ri,” a retired Navy pilot, played by William Holden has been called back into active service for the Korean War. After successful raids on strategic bridges deep inside Korea, the Major is shot down and killed. As the Commanding Admiral, played by Frederick March, sits in his command chair of his Flag Ship, he looks out over the sea and contemplates, “Where do we get such men?”

As I thought back trough the over fifty years since World War II, I sometimes ask myself that question, “Where DID we get such men?” Then I realize that the answer is really simple — we got them from the cities of the north, the plains of the mid-west, the coasts of California and Carolina, the coal mines of Pennsylvania and West Virginia, the vast expanse of the Texas prairies and the mountains of Colorado. And yes, we got them from Tupelo, Mississippi and hundreds of villages and hamlets just like it.

The boys who went to war for us, wanted to come home and live the rest of their lives, but many died in places that they had never even read about. It seems that down through the years they are whispering in our ears the same admonition that Captain Miller gave to Private Ryan, “Deserve This.” When we come to the end of our days, I pray that we will be able to turn to some one and say, “I did live a good life, didn’t I?” — II Timothy 4:7

Piggie,

My people are your people. Thanks so much for sharing this with us this Memorial Day weekend. My father, Floyd Clark, served on the front lines of Korea and I’m fortunate he’s still with us.

Many of our people didn’t make it home from those battlefields you mentioned. And many, who served and survived through some very hard times, came back with injuries not just to their bodies, but their minds too.

We do need to pause, say a prayer for the families we know who had a loved one, who may be long gone and prove that old motto is more than just words — “Remember and Honor.”

Your friend, Jim

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