Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Honoring Their Dads' Sacrifice

L.D. Suggs, III lives on a golf course in South Carolina. Bob Brough’s home overlooks a lake straddling the Michigan-Indiana line. They’ve never met each other, but they share a common bond.  They are among the approximately 180,000 Americans left fatherless by World War II. I’ve had the privilege of visiting both men at their homes (and losing a golf match to L.D.).

Many people who lost their father in the war were so young they never knew him (that’s true of Bob and L.D.). Most of these people are now in their late sixties or older, and some belong to the American WWII Orphans Network http://www.awon.org.

I met Bob through a postcard written by his father, Joseph E. Brough, in 1942. I bought the postcard on eBay. That was the easy part. Finding Bob was one of my most difficult research projects. It took a year and some help from a local newspaper to finally track him down. (A news article about the postcard is at http://www.journalgazette.net/article/20130528/NEWS07/305289967/-1/NEWS09. There’s a minor mistake in the headline; the card came from eBay, not an antique shop.)

Joseph Brough was an aviator who died when his aircraft went down in the Pacific in 1944. His body was recovered after the war and returned to his hometown of Peru, Indiana for burial in 1950. Bob remembers being a small boy standing with his mother to meet the train carrying his father’s casket. He also remembers marching as a Cub Scout in a parade when a monument to soldiers killed in WWII was dedicated on the courthouse lawn in Peru.

My connection with L.D. is more personal than a postcard. During World War II my late mother was just out of high school and worked at Camp Van Dorn, a training base near her hometown of Centreville, Mississippi. We still have her Army ID card. It was signed by Lt. Lorenzo D. Suggs, Jr., Provost Marshall. Lt. Suggs completed his assignment at Camp Van Dorn and was sent to Europe. A prison commander, he was transferred into combat during the Battle of the Bulge and was killed Jan. 13, 1945, just a few months before the war in Europe ended. His body was returned to the United States after the war and is buried in the family plot at Loris, SC, near Myrtle Beach. My wife Becky and I spent last winter in the Myrtle Beach area and paid our respects at the cemetery.

I connected with L.D. by mail, and then visited him at his home in March 2013. On the wall in his den is a display with a photograph of his father in uniform, framed medals, and other mementoes from his wartime service. Three months later I visited Bob’s home and saw an almost identical display dedicated to his father.

The attached photos show Joseph Brough's postcard and mementos on the wall at his son's home, and photos of my mother's ID card and Lt. Suggs.

Seven decades have passed since L.D. and Bob lost their fathers. They carry their loss with dignity and pride.

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