Almost a year ago, Operative BJ and the Czar had a quiet discussion about duty and service, when he volunteered this story about his father. The Czar asked permission to retell it on his dad’s birthday. Here it is, and we hope you find it as moving as it is insightful on the nature of heroism.
My father served during World War II. But his service ended with his never being the same, and with his early discharge from the Army partly due to it. You see, his side of the family was from Poland and he spoke fairly fluent Polish. This linguist ability caused him to be involved in an experience that changed him forever.
He was asked to be a translatorwhen the Allies freed one of the camps.
He never spoke about it much. Only briefly. And each time he began to speak about it, his face took on a pallor I can’t quite describe. It was as if he had stared directly into the eyes of Death and come away after having some of his soul ripped away from him. He hid this part of himself from everyone, but I know that it ate away at him until the day he died.
It’s one thing to know your parent was in the service, It’s quite another to know that your father served, that he had done something that – due to a special skill – few others could do or had done or even needed to be done, that he had faced an unspeakable horror that forever haunted him, and that the experience tortured him for the rest of his life.
After his death, we went through his personal affairs and came upon a box that my mother didn’t recognize. We opened it… and found things inside that told the story of what he had done. Military insignias. Pictures. Other memorabilia. Those itemsall of themwere donated to a Holocaust memorial group in Keene, New Hampshire. Even now, as I write this, I can’t help but start to weep for my father: a serviceman who did what he was asked to do but could never explain what he had seen while doing it.
A hero. In the truest sense of the word.
The Czar wishes Operative BJ a great weekend on his late father’s birthday.
Божію Поспѣшествующею Милостію Мы, Дима Грозный Императоръ и Самодержецъ Всероссiйскiй, цѣсарь Московскiй. The Czar was born in the steppes of Russia in 1267, and was cheated out of total control of all Russia upon the death of Boris Mikhailovich, who replaced Alexander Yaroslav Nevsky in 1263. However, in 1283, our Czar was passed over due to a clerical error and the rule of all Russia went to his second cousin Daniil (Даниил Александрович), whom Czar still resents. As a half-hearted apology, the Czar was awarded control over Muscovy, inconveniently located 5,000 miles away just outside Chicago. He now spends his time seething about this and writing about other stuff that bothers him.