Time to Leave

The days went by and soon Sherman Potter prepared to leave his family. Mildred still pretended to be strong, but he knew that when she was alone she was sometimes crying. It was really hard for her and Sherman felt miserable about that. So he tried to spend as much time with her as he could. Hopefully their children will take care of Mildred while he is away.

And how did he feel? He better not tell Mildred...she already has enough to worry about. If you're going off to war for the third time you have no illusions about what lies ahead. Well, this time the incident was called a 'Police Action', but this was only a paraphrase for the simple but dreadful word 'war'. Involuntarily he had to smile when he remembered that he ran away from home to join the cavalry in World War I. Then many boys thought that war was romantic. They had heard too many stories with glorious heroes and all that stuff. 'How ignorant I was in those days,' he admitted to himself. In WWI when the first of his friends had died in his arms, Sherman's illusions died with him. He buried them along with his buddy. He knows the cruelties of war, and despite his experiences (or because of them) he is still afraid. In Tokyo he will be in a rather safe place, but that could change any time. In the combat zone you could get killed any day. So one has to see each day as a gift. Who knows if you will see the daylight again tomorrow? Potter had some luck in the past; he has "only" been injured a few times. For instance, in WWI he once caught a dose of poison gas and his eyesight was in danger. Fortunately no permanent disabilities resulted from all these happenings. When you got wounded and you were lucky, it was only a minor injury. If it was more serious, you needed a lot more luck to get rescued to a medical unit. If you didn't get rescued you might have a painful, slow, and lonesome death. In the latter case Potter would prefer to be dead instantly.

Another possibility was that you could get captured, which was always an unpredictable danger. The treatment of POWs was regulated, but what can you do if they don't care about regulations? Potter had once been captured in Europe. His hair was shaved off and then he was beaten up. He knows that allegedly the Chinese and North Korean military are not that gentle...

He tried to banish his concerns. Sherman selected a few extra things that he will take with him. Pictures of his family and, among some other things, the old saddle from his cavalry days of World War I. He always took his saddle with him. In World War II he never met a horse on Guam. He didn't expect that there will be horses available in Japan but he thinks of the saddle as a lucky charm.

Finally, the day came to say good bye. He and Mildred had lunch together with some members of their family. They had wine after lunch and everybody wished him the best.

Sherman took his glass and looked at them. "As you all know, I have to leave today. Within three days I will be on duty in Japan. I don't know when I will be back, but I pray to God that this war will end soon and I can come home. I have spent a lot of time away from the people I love, and I have to do this again. I won't see how my grandchildren grow up and believe me, that hurts very much. How old will they be when I am back? My children are living their own lives now, but I hope you will take care of your mother while I am away. Also take care of yourselves, and please don't forget to write me a letter every now and then. Words cannot express how much all of you mean to me."

They all stood up, and Sherman carefully kissed his grandchildren. Then he hugged and kissed his daughters, Jeanine and Effe; he hugged his son-in-law, Bob, and finally he took Mildred in his arms. It became a tearful good bye. Together they went outside. The Army sent a car to pick him up. It was already waiting for him. A final look back, then he entered the car. He waved one last time from the car; his last sight was a few people waving in front of his house. His eyes were far from dry, but he didn't mind if the driver, a young corporal, noticed or not.

"God help us all," he said in a low voice.

"Sir?" asked the driver, assuming that the Colonel was talking to him.

"It's nothing, son. I was just talking to myself," he thoughtfully replied. "A lot of our boys won't come back home. Lord only knows what might happen." He continued his monologue, "I have seen two World Wars and I hoped as a result from all that suffering and pain the world had seen there wouldn't be another war in the near future. It took only five years, and again we're fighting. A wise man once said that we learn from history that we do not learn from history." A very serious Colonel Potter arrived at the army base.

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