Ray Haener

(H-Minus is the motto of the 505th regiment of the 82nd Airborne. In the American airborne landings in Normandy, the 505th actually jumped before its scheduled “h-hour,” which is how they earned the motto.)

Dear Dad,

Thank you for signing up with your cousin at the Army recruitment center the day after Pearl Harbor. (And thanks to Grandpa Haener for giving his permission for his 17-year-old son to join)

Thank you for surviving more than three years of parachuting into the multiple hells of North Africa, Sicily, Normandy, Holland, Belgium and Berlin (though you were so sure you wouldn’t make it out alive that you stopped writing home, and only resumed your letters after ordered to do so by your commanding officer.)

Thank you for getting sober shortly before I found you. And when I did find you, after years of uncertainty about the man I’d find, you were a loving and generous man. That you for that gift, and for the ten years we had together.

Thank you for sitting me down and setting me straight on the War. My stepdad served, too, but never wanted to talk about it. Growing up, I got my knowledge about WWII from John Wayne movies and Warner Brothers cartoons. I came of age during Vietnam, which seemed an exercise in futility. I came to look on war as an alien concept, invented by men for territory and glory. Thank you for showing me your experiences as an ordinary citizen soldier.

Thank you for our weekly phone calls. I loved your warm, kind voice and your passionate liberal beliefs. Thank you for the steady stream of books, newspaper clippings and little notes, all redolent with the stink of your Marlboros.

I miss you. I think about you every day. Especially today.

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