Who are you? as in the CSI opening theme

05/12/2009 at 5:36 AM 1 comment

I used to be a WW2 buff. I had read about the european theater the asian theater and many sub theaters. I had read grand strategy and the war from the grunts perspective. Now that I was a doctor I had a captive audience and began to get a person to person history in bits and pieces. I found out that the vast number of men from my area, if they were the right age, they had gone to Europe. Very few of them had gone west-how odd.

This one pleasant gentleman told me his story:

He had been in France, soon after the D-Day beach landings when something exploded nearby and knocked him out. He remembers waking in a Paris hostital. There was someone at the foot of the bed aparently waiting for just this moment. 

“how long have I been out?” he asked. Something had suggested to him it had not been a short time.

“About 50 days.” the answer came and shocked him.

After a moments reflection, “Who am I? I seem to have forgotten.”

There was a short pause, before the answer came. Enough of a pause for the brain to say something escatological before bracing itself to hear the unbearable.

“We dont know. We were hoping you would tell us. Your dog tags were blown off. there was much confusion and it is not clear which unit you were with. The best we can tell you is that you were in the area that many units from central Pennsylvania were supposed to be.”

“OK, perhaps it will come back.”

“yes, perhaps.” But she did not sound very convincing.

My patient was transfered back to Maryland to guard German POWs. During his days off, he would hitch his way in to central Pennsylvania and walk the center of small towns up and down the state. Hoping for that, “Oh my god, it’s George!” event. It never happened. After six months he found the pantomine too depressing to continue. He had probably come from somewhere else. In a day before personal mass comunications and with tens of thousands of missing and dead soldiers, he was lost in the crowd without any way of getting his face into the public forum, so that his family, his parents could recognize him.

Would it matter anyway, since he would not remember them anyway? Perhaps, he could have found an expert in accents and determined more conclusively what part of the country he came from. Or is that just a hollywood thing?

What he did was, start living. He had just met a nice young lady that would soon become his wife. He was discharged from the army , he picked a name he liked and a birthday ( who among us  gets to do that?). And he had a family, worked for over forty years, retired and eventually told me the story.

Everytime I think of him I get sad. He wasn’t sad. He had dealt with his loss before I was even a possibility. But as a parent,  I think of his parents that never knew he was all right. That he had survived that horrible war, that they were grandparents. What were they told? that he had died? or was simply MIA?

I will never know.


Entry filed under: true story.

Did I really say to do that? Deadly at the hands of a novice

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