Veteran, and peaceful warrior 

Here in dystopian D.C., traveling toward the midst of a not-so-roaring twenties, no one is either sitting atop flagpoles or celebrating with bathtub gin. And the red-white-and-blue doughboys of World War I limped back off the troop carriers badly bent — today we call it PTSD — if they could walk at all after being showered with mustard gas. 

My uncle Jacques was lucky. Born in 1915 in New Jersey, although he teethed in the shadow of the “Blacktown” ammo dump explosion, his memories coasted through the Jazz Age. Though it was said the ‘Deutsch’ set off the pyrotechnics and inadvertently blew themselves up. So, no harm done; just a nasty, sooty column of smoke to scare both sides of the Hudson. 

Fast forward to July 4, 1981. A drum, a tinny trumpet and possibly a tootling fife led the way down leafy St. John’s Street in sleepy, genteel New Canaan, Connecticut. Parading hesitatingly but proudly, my now 66-year-old Unk held his tattered 47-star silken stars and stripes high over his head and smiled wanly as he passed my folding chair perch on his lush green lawn. 

In 1942, Jacques was already in line for a professorship in Classics and Ancient Languages at the University of Bridgeport. He participated in some skirmishes with the Nazis — was it in Italy? — but sustained no lasting damage. After the three-block Independence Day parade concluded, Jacques and I sat in the kitchen. He beat me soundly in two to three rounds of chess. Two years hence, after his death from metastatic cancer, the Bridgeport dean established a chair in his name. 

Amen, Jacques! 

Issues |Veterans

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