My grandmother answered a knock on the front door and was asked by the stranger at the door if she was the mother of Harry Fox. She fainted.
It was early 1945. The Second World War raged and my grandmother thought the man at the door was the one she had dreamed about too many times. In her dreams, a man came to the door to inform her that her son, who has served in the United States Army since 1941, had been killed in action. The dream was so real that when the stranger said her son’s name she believed her premonition had come to pass.
Had she known her son’s whereabouts she would have been right to be afraid. Tech/4 Harry Fox was serving with General George Patton’s Third Army at the Battle of the Bulge.
In December 1944, Adolph Hitler attempted his last, desperate offensive thrust, sweeping tanks and infantry into the frozen, hilly, dense Ardennes woods. Hitler’s armies and Panzers massed in total secrecy and surprised the Americans in an attempt to disrupt the allied front, capture Antwerp, and break apart the Anglo-American alliance.
Heroic action by American forces delayed the thrust through the Ardennes Forest. Fighting in one of the coldest, most bitter European winters of the 20th century, American soldiers and their British allies battled the Germans in a series of surges and counterattacks over a one month period in what would turn out to be the largest engagement for the U.S. Army in the entire war.
The man at my grandmother’s door that day in 1945 turned out to be a newspaper reporter. The War Department had issued a new list of soldiers honored in combat and the newspaper sent a reporter to get background on Sgt. Fox, a newly decorated Bronze Star recipient at the Battle of the Bulge. A radioman in the 26th Division, while under hostile artillery and gunfire, my dad repaired communication lines to the front cut by enemy shrapnel to improve communications from the battalion command post.
I recall my grandmother’s story and my father’s service on this Veteran’s Day with war still waging overseas and the searing images of the Fort Hood Memorial Service in my mind.
At the same time, our political environment is enflamed with harsh rhetoric and thrusts and counterattacks of a different kind. With scorn heaped on our politics by many observers, you have to wonder if the men and women who make such sacrifices in the service of our country are proud of the way our democracy functions?
Democracy can be defined as the right of people to disagree vociferously within the political process. Our soldiers knew 65 years ago, and know today, that they fight against systems that do not stand such dissension.
To the strong, long line of those who serve our country from my dad’s time to today in the battle to preserve freedom, it is time to say thank you for giving us the chance to continue our loud, often disagreeable political frays.