Montana Outdoors

May 27, 2007

Memorial day.

Filed under: Montana, Reflections, Writing — montucky @ 9:31 pm

It was cloudy and cold that day in the late fall of nineteen hundred and forty four as a small boy stood with his family on the windy concrete platform of the old Milwaukee railroad station in Missoula Montana awaiting the departure of the train bound for the west coast.

The boy of three-plus years stood at attention in his miniature green uniform, authentically made for him by his mother’s hands. On each collar of his jacket he proudly wore the Globe and Anchor of the United States Marine Corps.

A few feet away stood a tall young Marine also dressed in a crisp green uniform. On his collars were shiny gold bars: on the left side of his campaign cover was a Globe and Anchor, on the right another gold bar.

When departure time came, the young officer hugged his mother, shook his father’s hand and then shook the hand of his young brother, followed by a sharp salute, then turned and boarded the train. His destination, known to him but not to the family; the South Pacific.

It was a cold winter that year but also one filled with foreboding and anxiety as the news of the South Pacific Campaign slowly trickled back to the town. The boy knew that something very important was happening from some of the words he overheard spoken and from an occasional glimpse of his mother’s tears.

There were letters received by the family during that winter, sporadic and short, but ever so welcome. Then one afternoon, when spring was at the doorstep of western Montana a large black sedan pulled up to the curb in front of the family home. The boy could see the tears well up in his mother’s eyes but he was still too young to understand.

A Navy Commander accompanied by an aide emerged from the car and made their way up the walk to the front door. After a short introduction, the Commander made a short and emotional statement: “The Department of the Navy regrets to inform you that your son has been killed in action during the battle for Iwo Jima.”


There is much, much more to this story, but to put it briefly for now, the Department of the Navy is not always right. Several weeks later a letter came in the mail in the young officer’s shaky handwriting and postmarked from the US medical facility on Guam, where he was slowly recovering from massive wounds incurred on the morning of March twenty-sixth during the last battle on the island and on the day Iwo Jima was declared officially secure. He was more fortunate than many of his comrades about whom the brief messages from the Department of the Navy were correct.



  1. I remember this story. thanks for sharing it again.


    Comment by skouba — May 28, 2007 @ 10:01 am

  2. It is one of the last posts I want to save from the old WU days.


    Comment by montucky — May 28, 2007 @ 11:36 am

  3. Sometimes even I who talk too much is left pretty speachless and this would pretty much be one of those moments.


    Comment by aullori — May 28, 2007 @ 1:43 pm

  4. That was one of my earliest memories, aullori.


    Comment by montucky — May 28, 2007 @ 6:20 pm

  5. I stand in salute to both you and your brother (and your mom and pop as well) The cost of war on a family can only really be measured by tears, prayers and late night thoughts. (And as anyone who has been there knows, quite a few deep heavy sighs.) In my opinion this country was created less by a bunch of politicians (who get the kudos in the history books) and more by people like your family (who carry memories like yours.) Thank you.


    Comment by aullori — May 29, 2007 @ 10:27 am

  6. Thanks, aullori.

    Those war years were tough on my folks, but military service has been a tradition in the family. My father, his father, my older brother and myself all wore the uniform of the United States Marine Corps, and my son was devastated when asthma prevented him from serving there. The freedom and safety of our country is worth fighting for.


    Comment by montucky — May 29, 2007 @ 12:50 pm

  7. montucky

    Thanks for sharing . . . Montana is the place where the pot of dreams can be had.

    God Bless.

    Dan Hanosh
    Dreams Are Yours To Share


    Comment by Dan Hanosh — May 30, 2007 @ 4:56 pm

  8. Dan,

    Montana has changed, sadly. There is now a struggle between those who love it and those who would exploit it. The issue is by no means decided.


    Comment by montucky — May 30, 2007 @ 10:07 pm

  9. Whew,… I do like the ending!


    Comment by Cedar — March 7, 2010 @ 10:43 am

    • It was so much better than it might have been. My brother lived actually quite well for another twenty years. When I saw him the last time just before he died from complications to those old wounds, he was pleased that I was also wearing Marine Corps green.


      Comment by montucky — March 7, 2010 @ 7:51 pm

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