1939 - age 17
My dad was a veteran of the second world war. He lied about his age to join the army, but when it was discovered that he was only 17, he was sent packing. Not to be discouraged, he joined the air force as soon as he turned 18 and, as a rear gunner, flew on 21 different missions. His plane was shot down on two occasions, and in one of those crashes he was the lone survivor. These events were the seeds of what was then known as "shell shock", which for him, lasted for the remainder of his life. Today we know this as post traumatic stress disorder or PTSD -- one of the "invisible" illnesses.
|Mom and Dad|
A love story during the war years
Dad never once spoke to us about his time serving for his country. Any information my family knows is from the few things he would tell my mother over time -- sometimes while babbling and shouting during a nightmare, from which he would wake up shaking in a cold sweat. We, as children, witnessed this many times.
While Dad was in hospital those many years before, one day Mom had offered to stay after her shift to write a letter to his family for him, since he was unable. He told her -- not until over 60 years later -- that he had fallen in love with her that very day, because she was the only one of all the staff in the hospital who treated him as a person, rather than just another patient.
|Tyne Cot Cemetery in Flanders Fields, Belgium|
Johnson family images © W. Russell
Tyne Cot Cemetery image courtesy http://www.utnrotcalum.org/alumni/FlandersFieldsStory.htm