War Stories and Expressive Language

This one is not about politics or government, but it is about life its ownself…and the power of language.

Yesteday I visited my father, and was reminded of the extraordinary power of words, storytelling, and how the appreciation of both makes for a fuller life.

My father is a month shy of 83 laps around the sun, and lives in an assisted living facility.  He is of the Greatest Generation…in fact, very much so.  A farm child of the depression, he went to war in 1942, came back to college on the GI bill, med school on a rural physician’s scholarship, then returned home to Manassas to have a family, build a medical practice, and participate in banking, real estate and property development, church politics, and helped build the Prince William Hospital where he was the second Chief of Staff.

Dad-and this you have to know to see the humor-loves words.  During the war, he was unsure he had the foundation skills to get into college, so each night he read the bible or a dictionary or a grammar standard he had to endlessly try to enhance his communication skills.  Those dark nights reading by lantern or whateve light was available led him to a lifelong appreciation and embrace of words.  At the same time, although a farm boy and a soldier, he always kept his language clean…the strongest word I ever heard him say was “confound it”. 

The love of words and language was always there.

Yesterday when visiting him he again told “The Story”, the story that never fails to entertain, the story where-even if only quoting-is the only profanity I have ever heard him use.  Again, it amused and entertained, and reminded me of the first time my father- he of the love of language and the clean mouth-told it to me.  So I share it with you, with asteriks used appropriately.

I was about fourteen when my father told me.  He was in an aid camp in Belgium-imagine a MASH unit with 500-600 beds, and you get the picture.  A buzz bomb hit one of recovery tents, and in an instant almost one hundred wounded soldiers were killed.  Dad was about fifty feet away when the bomb hit, and the concussion sent him flying.  He landed another forty feety away, the wind knocked out of him and purple from sternum to waist with bruises.

As he pulled himself up he realized he was next to an african-american supply sergeant who had just pulled into the camp as part of a supply convoy.  As the sergeant dusted himself off, the sergeant looked at my father and said, “Those Motherf***ing Motherf***ers done Motherf***ed us.”

I was stunned-I had never heard my father use language like this.  Then my father, thirty years after the event, looked at me with a sincere sense of awe and appreciation and said “Isn’t that wonderful?  That man used the same word three times in the same sentence, and each time it was a different part of speech!”.

War story, cussing, and grammar lesson all in one package.  Now THAT is the way to learn.


2 thoughts on “War Stories and Expressive Language

  1. Your story about your father certainly made me smile. My own father – now 94 – has some incredible and often funny war stories too. They truly were The Greatest Generation.

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