For the Love of a Uniform! (Writing 101)

Today’s Prompt: Tell us the story of your most-prized possession.

A family heirloom, a flea market find, a childhood memento — all are fair game. What matters is that, through your writing, you breathe life into that object, moving your readers enough to understand its value.

Today’s twist: We extolled the virtues of brevity back on day five, but now, let’s jump to the other side of the spectrum and turn to longform writing. Let’s celebrate the drawn-out, slowly cooked, wide-shot narrative.

I remember seeing it on my mother’s dresser and I would always ask about it.  The story remained the same but somehow it fascinated me plus I felt so proud.  He looked so young and of course handsome!  I don’t know why, but I liked that he was squatting and the way his fingers entwined within each other.  I adored it and him.

I loved to ask about the uniform, it was an army uniform and not just any army uniform but a paratrooper uniform!  Why are there patches on it, I would ask?  Because I was a paratrooper he explained, I did not understand what that meant.  He saw the confusion on my face, “I jumped out of planes”.  Wow you did?  Weren’t you afraid?  How old were you?  I would always rattle off these questions, I knew the answers but I loved to hear them again and again.  He was 18, so young.  He was not afraid, he loved the idea of being a paratrooper.  He was quite the thrill-seeker when he was young.  He was bold and courageous.

As it was explained to me, my Mom and Dad met at a roller-skating rink.  My Dad was like The Fonz of his day, leather jacket and all.  He would skate around the rink with one foot up on the railing that encircled the rink, to show off for the ladies.  He was quite the roller-skater.  Apparently he caught the eye of my mother, although I was told she played hard to get.  It seems she was attracted to the “bad” boy, which is a trait that has been passed down in the genes, I always found “bad” boys appealing too!  Today you would never know my father was like The Fonz, he’s somewhat quiet and reserved, but he still has that glint in his eye!  That glint was also passed down to me, there’s definitely a rebel in me!!   He was like James Dean, dreamy, a maverick, fearless, a risk-taker.

They were married at 19 years old, my Dad was still in the army and he shipped out to Germany two weeks after they married.  He was in Germany for fifteen months and then returned home, which was an adjustment for the two of them.  He returned to the States on December 1, 1953, was discharged on his 21st birthday in December and my sister was born 9 months later…it apparently was quite the celebration.  My brother followed in December of 1955, and then came yours truly….

The reason my Dad joined the army was because of his love of a uniform.  He had a friend Leo, one day Leo’s brother came home on leave from the army, he was a paratrooper.  He was wearing his paratrooper uniform and my Dad thought he looked sharp, like he had just stepped out of a magazine.  Dad told him, wow you look sharp, and Leo said ya we should do that so we can wear the uniform.  So they did.  They joined the army in December 1950 with dreams of wearing paratrooper uniforms. Being 18 years old, they never gave any consideration to the fact that they might actually end up in the middle of the Korean War, they liked the uniform and thought joining was an adventure.  Apparently they wanted to “be all they could be” and look good doing it.

Once enlisted, Dad thought what the hell am I doing here?  At other times, when he was involved in dress parades, playing soldier, firing guns and big tank guns he liked it and found it to be the adventure he had dreamed of.  Oh yes, and then there was this matter of wearing one said paratrooper uniform.

One day the Army presented him with two choices 1)to be deployed to Asia or 2)to Europe.  My Dad chose Europe, another escapade he thought.   After settling in he discovered that the dollar was worth $4 in Germany.  He soon became quite the connoisseur of German beer.  That love of beer trait flowed thru to my brother who is a big fan of IPA’s.  My father also learned to speak fluent German, well to be honest, he learned how to say one more beer please fluently!  noch ein Bier bitte!!

Unfortunately this was a serious trip not a vacation, so he was not allowed to visit towns, in fact there were four different sectors setup in Germany during that war era, American, British, French, and Russian.  He was not allowed to leave the American sector.

He trained for 20 weeks before jumping from a C46 plane for the first time.  Eight weeks of basic, 6 weeks advanced training, specializing in equipment, like machine guns and bazookas, then jump school for 3 weeks which they had to repeat for another 3 weeks.  Finally came the moment he was to jump out of the plane.  Heart pounding, blood racing, not knowing what to expect he jumped!  The second time was worse than the first, now he knew what to expect!  Steel helmets were worn in those days and when he jumped the steel buckles on the risers passed up the back of his helmet forcing it down the front of his nose and would scrape it…every time!  His commander would often ask him who he got into a scuffle with, he’d have to admit it was his helmet and that the helmet always won.  A C46 is a two-engine cargo plane, it would carry 32 soldiers up into the wild blue yonder and they would all leap from the plane within 8 seconds of starting.

Curtiss C46 Commando

Curtiss C46 Commando

Prior to takeoff, as the soldiers were sitting in the plane, the pilot would be going thru his pre-flight checklist one of which was revving up the engine.  This would cause every rivet inside the plane to rattle, leaving the men to wonder how in the world would they ever take off?  My Dad jumped sixteen times, 5 in school and 11 during army training.  He did night jumps, equipment bag jumps, carrying 60-80 lbs of supplies which he was trained to let go of right before hitting the ground.  He was taught that there were five landing points on your body, balls of your feet, calves, thighs, bum and shoulders.  He said he always landed on three, feet, bum and head.  There were pros and cons to jumping; one pro ~ he was paid $50 hazardous pay each month, con ~ there was always that apprehension he felt right before each jump.  Pro ~ he saved that $50 for six months at which time he then used the money to buy my mother’s engagement ring.  In those days, $300 would be equivalent to $5,000 today.  What a sweetie-pie!  My mom thought so too!!

That wonderful, glorious, long-anticipated day finally arrived when he could  put on his very own paratrooper uniform. Which of course was the whole reason for his excellent adventure, and boy did he feel ‘Proud as a Peacock’!!  There was also a pinning ceremony.  The captain would pin the top paratrooper, that top paratrooper then turned to the soldier next to him and pinned him and this continued down the line, each pinning the next one.  It was a very moving moment for my Dad.  He had accomplished his goal, wearing his very own paratrooper uniform, his pins and patches, well deserved Dad!

So there you have it, my most treasured possession is this photo of my Dad in his paratrooper uniform.  This picture was taken in June 1951, my Dad was wearing his Class A Summer Khaki Paratrooper Uniform, he was right, it was a sharp uniform and he did look handsome in it.  To think he joined the army all for the love of a uniform!

 My Dad the ParatrooperMy Dad the Paratrooper

 love you Dad! xo








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