My dad was drafted in about 1950 when the Korean War was really starting to take off. At the time, he was a farm boy living in Central Wisconsin. He had a 6th-grade education and lived with his mom and stepfather on the farm his real father built. His dad died about 9 years earlier and his mom married the first man willing to take on both the farm and the kids. My dad’s stepfather was a cruel and sadistic man and even crueler to my dad because he thought my dad was inferior. If you’ve read some of my previous blogs, you’ll remember that my dad was deaf.
Anyway, my dad was drafted and was to report to the military processing station in Milwaukee. They even gave him a bus ticket to get there. Even though my dad was deaf, he didn’t have a choice but to report. He was actually happy to get away from the farm for a couple days and get away from his stepfather’s cruelty.
When he arrived at the military station, he just followed the other draftees around because he obviously couldn’t hear the instructions. The guy next to him introduced himself and when it was sorted out that my dad was deaf, he laughed and laughed at the absurdity of it all. He also helped my dad listen for when his name was called to go in for the physical. When the time came, my dad went into the physical room and sat in the chair provided. When he looked at the doctor, he could tell the doctor was agitated and yelling something at him. I imagine it went like this:
DOCTOR: Did I say for you to sit?
DOCTOR: Are you not listening to me?
DOCTOR: What are you? Deaf?
It took them a few hours to sort it all out. When it was determined that my dad was indeed deaf and not faking it, they told him he could leave. My dad found a piece of paper and wrote, “I have no money.” Then a hat was passed around to collect enough for a bus ticket and my dad was on his way to the bus station. It was about a mile walk so he took in the sights on his way through the city. He made his plans.
When he arrived back at the farm, he went right to his room and started packing his things. His stepfather interrupted him and asked what he thought he was doing? The last thing his stepfather wanted was for my dad to leave the farm. He was needed for all the work the cruel man didn’t want to do. Once again, I imagine it went like this (with some sign language, of course):
EVIL STEPFATHER: What do you think you’re doing?
MY DAD: Leaving.
EVIL STEPFATHER: No, you’re not.
MY DAD: Yes.
EVIL STEPFATHER: Where do you think you’ll go?
MY DAD: Not your business.
EVIL STEPFATHER: You’re too stupid to do anything. You can’t leave. Put your things back.
MY DAD: No.
Apparently, after the exchange of words, his stepfather started to pull clothes out of his bag. My dad pushed him away. His stepfather swung and missed. My dad swung and caught him square in the nose.
When my dad got back to Milwaukee, he found a job right away working at a slaughterhouse. It was an awful dirty job, but it was his. He no longer had to put up with the cruelty and abuse and now it was time to take measure of himself.
Years later, after I had left the service after 8 years, my dad would like to joke that he was a veteran just like me…only he served a little less time. One thing I do know, however, is that if my dad could’ve served, he would’ve. He’s honorable that way and I couldn’t have wished for a better nor greater father to bring me through life. I miss him dearly.