For Christmas 1984, my dad gave me a two hundred page, three
ring binder titled "A World War II Diary." I didn’t
know he had kept a diary of his service, so it came as something
of a surprise. Of course, I knew he was in the war and that he
served in the infantry during WWII, but little else. And then
in 1984 I was holding a day-to-day account of one of the most
tumultuous times in his life.
Like many sons of World War II veterans, I grew
up hearing occasional “war” stories and learned enough
to know what a good job our soldiers had done. But like so many
other veterans, my father did not talk much about the blood, the
death, and what hurt the most—the loss of his men and his
I think this diary helped him bring a little more
closure in his personal struggle to put the war far behind him.
He was proud of serving his country and proud of his accomplishments.
Although he was awarded the Bronze Star, he never considered himself
a hero. "The heroes were the ones who didn't come home,"
he once told me. I've heard that same phrase time and time again
from many veterans.
When my parents were first married, my mother
had taken all his medals and placed them in a display case. I
remember asking my dad once about them.
“Which is your favorite?”
Without hesitation, he pointed to the Combat Infantryman
Badge. “That one.”
His answer surprised me. “Why that one and
not the Bronze Star?”
“Because being in the infantry and on the
front lines— You can't get much closer than that.
At the time, I thought he meant closer to the
war. But as I've grown older, with a family of my own, I know
now what he really meant. He was telling me you can't get much
closer to your buddies; you can't get much closer to your own
fears; and you can't get much closer to God.
Andrew Z. Adkins III