We're always reading about fictional heroes. I know I have more than my share that I'm quite smitten with. Strong, honorable men who stand up for what's right, that don't take the easy route even if it means they'll end up in danger, who cherish the women in their lives. Men we spend so many hours getting to know and thinking about, that risk everything for others. But what about the real heroes in our lives?
When I started thinking about this challenge and what to do for H I decided to write about heroes. There are so many from the books I've read that I just adore but I decided to do a post about one of my real life heroes instead. My great uncle Allen.
There have always been photos of Allen around the house. This is my favorite and one I have in my dining room. He is my grandmother's older brother and someone I never got the chance to meet but have gotten to know and love nonetheless.
Allen joined the marines when he was just 17 years old in the fall of 1943. He shipped out for training in Hawaii before heading to Iwo Jima.
Allen was a runner and ran messages back and forth between the people in charge and those in the field. He ended up being injured by a piece of mortar fragment and was being sent home. He begged the doctors to let him stay with his company but they refused. We seem to come by our rebellious side honestly in our family. Allen didn't like that decision so he stowed away on a small boat heading back to the island and snuck back to his company since he didn't think his injury was all that bad. A few weeks later Allen was shot by a Japanese sniper and killed while he was leading medics to injured soldiers in the field so they could be treated and evacuated. He had just turned 19 a few days earlier.
Last year my mom sent me a packet of photocopied letters and a stack of photos of my uncle Allen. I haven't been able to make it through all of the letters yet. I get through a couple each time before ending up in tears. Most are letters he sent home to my grandmom, his baby sister, and the rest of the family. Just little birthday notes and such. I don't think she was even 10 years old at the time. Some from other soldiers he served with that wrote the family after his death. Notes from his best friend Clarence about what happened that day and then just because he was family by then. The official notice of his death and condolences from the government and the Western Union telegraph to tell the family. The ones that truly break my heart are the ones from the family to Allen that were returned because he'd already passed away. Ones from my great grandmom to her son that she wrote after his death. Holding out hope that a mistake had been made and he was really fine. They just break your heart to pieces and I always end up a bit of a mess reading them.
The second photo is of Allen and his best friend Clarence who I believe he met during training. Clarence kept in touch with our family after Allen was killed and even named his son after him. Our families still visit and spend time with each other. Clarence sends funny email fowards to my mom and I'm friends on Facebook with Allen. Technology can me a wonderful thing sometimes. Now that I'm an adult it amazes me even more how many people Allen was able to touch in so few years. That another family loves him as much as we do and honor him like he was their own. It always touches me that Allen (the non family one) will post about my great uncle on memorial day or on his birthday or to remember the day he gave his life for his country. He was a brave young man and I'm honored to be a part of his family.