By Attorney David Engler
There is nothing more lasting than memories. It is one of the cruel ironies that the diseases of the elderly like Alzheimer’s and dementia often rob our loved ones or wards of the past. I have advocated in the blog post: “Let Grandma Facebook” that we should try to teach seniors how to get on Facebook as an incredible tool for socializing. Without socialization, we start to diminish.
I have included the photo of my friend Ray who is blessed. He is 85; plays golf three times a week, travel the world with his wife and can tell a story. I was lucky enough this past weekend to learn how he spent the last months of World War II.
It was easy enough to get in to the Army. No one really checked birth certificates, so being 16 or 17 was no problem. Ray enlisted and soon found out that his $30 dollar a month would be bumped up with a bonus of $50 if he agreed to jump from a plane and become an Army Ranger 11th Airborne Division. It was the end of 1944 and the war was going full-scale. Growing up in Brier Hill on the Northside of Youngstown and being one of 8 children during the depression meant that patriotism came easy. You grew up on a street where every kid was poor and didn’t know it. Every family on Sunday went to their respective ethnic church. Ray’s family was Polish so St. Kashmir was the place to pray. It also had a ping-pong table. He had played his cousins and every other kid on the Northside for years. He had a quick defense and could play from 8 feet off the table. No nickels or pennies wasted in a pinball machine, when 6 hours of fun was available at the Church.
By the time he finished basic training in Alabama and jump school at Fort Benning, he was deployed to Okinawa. He was one of the elite but by the time his company arrived the Emperor had surrendered after the Atomic Bomb was exploded and the Russians had invaded. It was September of 1945. The Japanese were completely compliant. They did as the Emperor directed. Sure there were holdouts on islands that did not get the message and one fought all the way until 1970(true!).
Ray was stationed in Sendai where the tsunami recently killed thousands. There was not a great deal of danger and the troops needed entertained, so there were Ping Pong tournaments. Ray took on all comers, even the Japanese. The picture I have attached is Ray holding the 1946 Pacific Rim Championship Ping Pong Paddle. He is like a real life Forest Gump, except Forest was shot at. The winner got a trip to stay at the Emperor’s Palace for two weeks. Imagine being 20 years old and living in a palace. There was no shortage of anything. America had won and Ray was the greatest Ping Pong player on this vanquished island-nation.
Ray is lucky because he has shared these stories with his children and grandchildren, but there is no reason they should not be captured with our camera phones, blogs and HD recorders. On the net, the memories can live forever on sites like Facebook, Tumblr and WordPress. Take the extra few minutes at your next visit and capture the video memories of these American treasures, our seniors.