A Tribute to Two Fighters
Before I start sharing what’s on my mind this month I wanted to mention an article I wrote many years ago. In fact, it was an incident that I am about to review that actually launched the “Travels with Allen” monthly article.
It started when I was very young, just past five, and World War II was in its final year. Early in January of ‘45 an olive drab Plymouth sedan stopped in front of a neighbor’s home two doors from our house. Trouble! The street stood still. People froze in place waiting to see which home the smartly dressed soldier would visit. Bluntly stated, the vehicle, the Marine, the telegram he carried, were a death notice from the War Department for one of “C” Street’s soldiers.
The young man slowly approached our neighbor’s home… the Moonbergs. Mrs. Moonberg saw the soldier climb her steps and began to back up quickly sobbing hysterically as she tried to avoid the messenger. Her husband, hearing the commotion, raced out of the house to see what was happening. In a millisecond he understood. He was a very large man, rather gentle but huge, and he quickly placed himself between his hysterical wife and the messenger,
The soldier saluted briskly, handed the trembling man the telegram, saluted again, did an “about face” and returned to his car. Mr. Moonberg held the letter firmly in his fist as he literally dragged his sobbing wife into the house. Their only son, a tanker with Patton, had been killed during the Battle of the Bulge. His distraught mother never came out of the house again for almost a year.
I was young and had no idea as to what was really going on. I knew that our neighbors were unhappy and that something very bad had just happened. Adult people didn’t cry. And what I remember most, even from this early childhood memory, is my mother watching the entire episode from our porch and saying over and over and over that “she only asked G-d for one thing … that her children bury her.”
I don’t know why but that scene and my mother’s comment, young as I was, have never, and I do mean never, left my mind. Now with this as a backdrop, let me continue.
Several years after we had started the Uptight Suburbanite, before we resuscitated the Carrier Pigeon and things were still somewhat sane, I had a habit of stopping in to visit advertisers when I passed their stores or offices. On one such occasion, while passing through Willow Grove I stopped to visit D. Schultz Design Center on Easton Road. Mitchell, the owner, and I got into a really interesting discussion. I stayed for quite a while. I enjoyed his company.
Ultimately, we ended up sitting in his office with cups of coffee. The minute I entered his office I spotted models of many different types of aircraft, both military and civilian. “Warthogs,” a plane used by many branches of the United States military decorated the ceiling and bookshelves. I also saw a large number of models of Abrams M1 battle tanks that our armed forces were using in Afghanistan. When I questioned their presence, I learned that one of his sons, Sam, was serving, as his grandfather had done in World War II, in combat areas.
Driving back to the office I reflected on my visit and made a decision. I was going to start a new article in our magazine entitled “Travels with Allen.” Quite honestly, I was more interested in writing about the people I met than I was with their products or services they provided. Let’s face it, you can buy wallpaper anywhere. Many firms sell clothing, appliances and furniture. But we rarely learn of the merchant, not his product or service. Most people still want, I believe, to deal with human beings in the community with whom they can establish ongoing relationships.
Thus, “Travels with Allen” was born. My very first article talked about, among other people, Mitchell …. not his wallpaper or carpet … but about his sons and his pride.
Last Sunday, while reading the Sunday Inquirer I spotted an obituary, one that for some reason grabbed my attention. So, I stopped to read it more carefully. I learned that there had been an accident, a military helicopter had crashed. I further learned that one of the victims was Mitchell’s son.
It upset me greatly! I could only image the sadness it brought and will continue to bring to his family. Honestly, words fail me. I had an instant image of Mrs. Moonberg and the messenger. Pain is pain, regardless the century. Tragedy is tragedy.
As Linda and I sat in our living room discussing the tragedy and deciding how we as friends and publishers should respond, our phone rang. We learned from my sister-in-law that my older niece Ellen Herman Goodman, barely past fifty-three, had died.
It’s odd that the two deaths came so close together. Ellen never wore a uniform, but she was a fighter, a trooper and a battler who never gave up. As a teenager she had done battle with cancer and survived. She won the fifteen round bout but her body suffered the consequences. She was sick afterwards for years and had literally danced in and out of death’s door step on four or five occasions. But she had two children and a husband and an incredible will to live for and with them and conduct her life as normally a she could until she finally lost the last battle. They don’t make them much tougher.
So, we ended up at two funerals. Both, testiments to the two people and their families, were jammed. The parking lot for the Schultz funeral was so over overloaded that people were forced to park far from the funeral home and had to be bused to the sanctuary.
I will not bother you with the details but both, as you can image, were very difficult. Watching parents bury a child is a nightmare. Watching two young children bury their mother is gut wrenching. I find no adequate description for either.
On the way home from my niece’s funeral I turned and told Linda that if my Mother was still alive I am certain she would add a caveat to her statement: No young children should have to bury a parent … especially a mother.
Let me close with one last thought. Our military is so under appreciated it is a disgrace. To think that our wounded men and women have to beg on TV for public support is a true disgrace. That our wounded have to wait to get into hospitals for care is beyond a disgrace. And that over one hundred veterans a week are committing suicide while so many others going homeless can only be described by a Yiddish word my mother would use on occasion. It’s a SHANDA …. a tragedy beyond description.
Our little monthlies will continue to push for our veterans, as Sam’s parents are, and we will continue to offer totally free ads to most non-profit groups who act in their behalf. I promise to continue to remind the public of the need to pressure Congress to own up to our obligations to our military. They appear, along with the Press, to be more concerned with “who is having sex with who” instead of how our veterans are getting screwed.
“Travels with Allen” will now have a second line in honor of Captain Samuel A. Schultz.
Your opinions are always welcomed.