Today marks the 90th anniversary of the end of World War I and the reason Veterans Day is celebrated in the United States, so I thought it appropriate to write about it. Now I never served in the Armed Forces, but two of my Uncles did and my Nephew and his Fiancée [Update 11/11/11: Now wife of a couple of years] currently serve in the Navy [Update 11/11/11: My nephew finished his hitch and is now a regular family man. His wife, my niece, still serves and outranks him, but that goes without saying, eh?]. Out of the four of them, one I haven’t met yet and one I never will. That’s who this story is about.
I’ll tell what I know of him, which isn’t much, but more than I knew most of my life because it just wasn’t a subject the family talked about. His name was Burdett, but they called him Bubs or Bubsy. He flew a P-38 Lightning for the 459th Squadron of the Army Air Force in WWII in Burma or Myanmar (that’s my Uncle with the pointer in his hand).
He was shot down and captured and was taken to a prisoner of war camp. He died there from dysentery and other digestive system issues within weeks of the camp being liberated. But the hardest, most life changing event for the family was that the plane that carried his remains crashed in Burma and haven’t been found to this day, though the search goes on through the Defense Prisoner of War/Missing Personnel Office (DPMO).
What I knew most was there was a machete in a black leather sheath with a smaller knife that fit on top of the sheath in my parent’s bedroom closet and a huge silver ring with this insignia on it in blue and red glass on the dresser that were my Uncle’s. The insignia reminded me of Captain America, even though it wasn’t round. The ring was a big, heavy kind of ring that would leave a mark on the jaw of the bad guy who got hit by it and meant power to boy and his daydreams. That was cool and that’s what I knew…That and the fact we rarely, if ever talked about him. Being the youngest child of the youngest child, and my Dad was over a decade younger than his nearest sibling, I never gave it a second thought. That’s just how it was.
A few years ago, that changed. Some family survivors of others on that same plane went to the DPMO and started getting attention about the situation. And in the long run more information came out, including the pictures you see here and a lot of clarification of information. But more than that, I got a scan of a letter my Uncle wrote his wife the night before his first mission, in his own hand. It speaks far more eloquently and with a sense of urgency to a soldier’s plight than anything I could write. You can click to enlarge it and see the insignia that’s the same as the ring I mentioned earlier, but I’ve transcribed it below as well.
Nov. 19, 1942
My Beloved Wife –
Tomorrow I am going on my first mission and if by some quirk of fate, I fail to return, I want you to know that I have never regretted one minute I have spent with you darling. Your coming into my life has brought the reason to me why I was born into this world – to live with and be loved by you and to love and care for you.
Honey, though I may never return to you in body – my soul will always be with you until we meet again in God’s Kingdom up there.
I love you terribly much, darling. May God help me utilize what I have been taught to help defeat our enemies so I may soon return to you in peace everlasting.
Darling, knowing you and having the great privilege of being your husband is something only He could grant such a person as I. May he see fit that I should continue to enjoy such a wonderful grant.
With all my body and soul,
Always your devoted lover
If you see a veteran today, thank them. If you know of a veteran who is no longer with us, remember them. And if you know of a veteran that never made it back in either spirit or body, know that there are people dedicated to looking for them and bringing them home again.