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Follies of a Navy Chaplain

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Tanks for the Memories

2014, Aaron Elson

   

An Open Heart

Dale Albee

    Dale Albee was one of 14 sergeants in the 712th Tank Battalion who received battlefield commissions during World War II. Here he describes an incident that took place on Jan. 9, 1944, during the Battle of the Bulge.

2014, Aaron Elson

    My father was a contractor during the war, and my mother was a welder. She welded ships all during the war. I still have her clamp. She was awful proud of that. Bless her heart, she did her part. You know, I have to tell you – when I came back from the war, people would ask you, "Well, how was it?"

    And you’d start to say and then they’d tell you about the gas rationing and the shoe rationing, and finally you learned to just clam up and say, "Oh, it wasn’t bad."

    Then one night my father sat me down and said, "You know, Son, we’ve always kept an open heart, and if you want to tell me about it, I’ll listen. I’d really like to know what it was all about."

    And I sat there for about four hours and told my father things I’d never told anybody. I really opened my heart and I think maybe that might have kept me from just going off my rocker. I was just so darned glad that my father had done that for me, and it shaped me up, so that I was able to do it for my daughter. My daughter went to Vietnam and spent a year over there. She was a nurse, in a MASH unit. She came back sick, and was still scared. The family couldn’t understand, what’s wrong with Donna? She’s so different.

    And I had the chance to sit down with her and do the same thing my father did.

    She lives in San Antonio. Bless her heart. She went over; she spent a year up there in Chu Lai, in the hospital.

    We talked, and she said, "You know, Dad, the only thing that bothers me – of all the people that came through that hospital, I don’t remember a name. I can see faces, but if I go to the Wall" – she said, "I’d like to go to the Wall" – "the only one that I know that would be there is Sharon Lane, and she came in after I was gone." She’s the nurse that came in as one of the replacements when Donna left, the one that got killed in that rocket attack there.

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