A Special Salute to all Veterans

I remember the cold and blustery day when I closed my eyes and said a little prayer that He would give me the strength to get through the task at hand.

It was extremely hard to sort through my Aunt Bobbie’s possessions following her death, particularly since it was more like sorting through two generation’s keepsakes. My family has never been very good at throwing out our “stuff,” so there was a mixture of both Aunt Bobbie’s precious memories mingled with those of my grandmother. Thank goodness we are packrats, or I wouldn’t have this story to share with you.

I found “the letter” in the family Bible. You know the one that everyone has … gold leaf nearly worn off and the binding so fragile that it’s held together with masking tape. Ours has silver duct tape, too. The book protects an assortment of obituaries, wedding and birth announcements, and other newspaper clippings wedged between the pages. I picked up Granny’s handwritten recipe for Louisiana Pecan Pie. It sounds like a strange place to keep a recipe but not if you had known my Aunt Bobbie.

Although I’d thumbed through the family Bible many times as I grew up, I’d never noticed “the letter.” After keeping it secure for all those years, did my aunt move it to the one place she was sure I’d find it? I don’t know. But, I do know with Aunt Bobbie, everything had a reason.

The three pages are as yellowed with age as the memories inked on them. It’s written in a precise yet manly flourish with a black fountain pen scripted on light weight “air mail” stationery.

As I slowly unfolded the fragile pages, an odd sensation of calmness and serenity settle around me. I demanded that my emotions take a back seat and allow me privacy to read the letter, thus getting to know my Uncle Vick, Aunt Bobbie’s brother.

July 29, 1944

Dearest Bobbie,

I wish it were possible to talk to you and tell you what I have to say.

I’m telling you so you can tell Mom. I don’t know how she will take it and I don’t want her to be alone when she gets the news. I want you to see that she doesn’t worry about me because there is no cause for it. I am in good condition now but I was wounded worse than I let you know.

I am perfectly content and quite happy. The only thing I regret is having to leave the Marine Corps. My days in the service are few but I am happy that my discharge is honorable.

I landed on the Island of Saipan with the assault wave. I made it almost through the campaign but my luck ran out and I got in front of a Jap Machine gun. I took four bullets in my left leg and one in my left arm. My arm is completely healed but I wasn’t so lucky with the leg. This is what I’ve been trying to say. To save my life they had to remove my left leg. In other words I only have one leg. Don’t feel sorry for me and don’t worry.

Today thanks to science a man doesn’t have to worry because they have artificial legs that a man can walk on just as normal as ever. He can dance, work, walk, run and do most anything else any other man can do. I don’t feel badly at all. I take it as just something that had to happen and I thank God I am alive.

I’ll be in the states soon. I will be in California for some time. After the leg is healed it takes a long time to get the stump tough enough for the leg to be attached. But I think I will get to come home for a while. Possibly in about three months. It won’t be the home coming I wanted but we are going to have lots of fun aren’t we? We can paint any town just as red as anyone else.

I haven’t told Naomi (his wife) yet and I don’t want Mom to tell her. That is my job. How I do it is something I haven’t figured out as yet.

Don’t write anymore until you hear from me again. Tell Mom the same thing. I expect to have a new address and it takes mail too long to catch up with me.

Keep Mom from worrying about me. Keep your chin up and we’ll all be happy.

I have to close now. I’ll be thinking of you and loving you,

Always, your Bud,
Vick

PS: Tell Dad first. Maybe he can help. I’ll tell more next time. Love always, Vick

Through blurry eyes and swallowing a lump in my throat much too big to go down, I read the letter twice before returning the yellowed pages to its resting place. The most appropriate place I knew to stow the treasure … our family Bible.

The letter had been written sixty years ago, in a faraway country, by a Marine fighting for our democracy.

Today I forced myself to reread the letter, as I prepared to share his story. I thought about the hundred of thousands of other servicemen that sent home similar letters.

In reflection, I didn’t get to know Uncle Vick while he was alive. His pictures show a handsome man, full of life and laughter. The family storytellers told of how he survived that horrid day lying amongst a pile of fallen American heroes and praying to God. I wonder if he prayed for survival or for a quick death? Only God knows.

I’m sorry that I missed the opportunity to really get to know him, but in 1952 God called him home earlier than the family planned. Uncle Vick was laid to rest at the age of 33 in the National Cemetery in Fresno, California.

In the six decades since Uncle Vick poured out his heart and soul and his fears and love to his sister, my aunt, we’ve seen the end to World War II, the Korean conflict,Vietnam, Desert Storm, September 11th, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

For centuries our servicemen have given their limbs and their lives so fellow countryman can enjoy democracy and have the opportunity to “… paint any town just as red as anyone else.”

I’m thankful, Aunt Bobbie, for leaving your brother’s letter in a place where you knew I’d find it.

Because God answered the prayers of Victor C. Johnson, U.S.M.C., on that dreadful day on the Island of Saipan, I now know my uncle – a man of courage and convictions, a heroic, honorable Marine who did not look back in regret for an instant after losing a limb for his country, a husband, brother, and son with compassion and tremendous love for his family and country.

Prologue

On a special spring day in San Antonio while watching my grandchildren play, my cell phone rang.  On the other end of the line a woman asked if I was Phyliss Pannier Miranda, and I said yes.  She asked if I had an aunt named Bobbie and if my mother’s name was Ruth.  I confirmed.  Then she asked if I had an Uncle Vick… I paused and slowly answered, “Yes”.  She then said, “Hello, I’m your cousin Vicky.” … my Uncle Vick’s daughter.

Vicki and I hadn’t seen one another since we were small and her family moved to California. While doing family genealogy she had come across my information.  To my surprise, she had not seen the above story on my web-site and I talked her through finding it.  I listened as she said over and over,  “That’s my daddy!”   I’m thrilled to say we’ve forged a bond and are real family now … all because of her daddy’s letter saved in the family Bible.

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A native Texan, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Phyliss Miranda still believes in the Code of the Old West and loves to share her love for antiques, the lost art of quilting, and the Wild West.

Visit her at phylissmiranda.com

19 thoughts on “A Special Salute to all Veterans”

  1. Oh my goodness. Brings tears to my eyes; it’s such an honor to read stories such as this. Bless you for sharing.

  2. Phyliss,

    Thank you so much for sharing your Uncle Vick’s letter. He sounds like such a wonderful man and a true hero.

    Our Vets, from any conflict, are so inspiring. They just leave me in awe with all they face and all they sacrifice and yet they retain an attitude that encourages others.

    God bless all Veterans and those serving today!!

    –Kirsten

  3. My thanks to all who have served and prayers for those serving.

    I’m so glad you and your cousin have reconnected.

  4. Gillian and Kristen, thanks for reading my story…it isn’t mine, but my uncle’s and those of so many veterans and active military. This letter appeared today in our local special section dedicated to the heroes who keep us safe, so I’ll be thrilled to send it to my cousin.

    Tracy and Liz, my cousin so wanted to reunite with her daddy’s family, but lived in California and didn’t know our married names. It was such a blessing. Thank you both for your warm comments. Big hugs, Phyliss

  5. Fellow Filly, Linda Broday, and I are hitting the road within the hour for a weekend booksigning tour and a little R&R with our RWA chapter over in Oklahoma, so I won’t be able to respond to each of your comments for a while. I promise to check in mid-afternoon, if I have Internet access, and again after tonight’s booksigning.

    May you all have a wonderful and blessed day … and above all remember your veterans, and if you can, give them a big hug. I’m fixin’ to do that to my hubby of 43 years who served our country in Vietnam. Hugs, Phyliss

  6. Wonderful story, Phyliss! Your uncle was a brave and generous man. No self pity at all . . . just acceptance, courage, common sense and an overriding concern for others. And what a joy to hear from his daughter, your cousin, after all those years. Thank you for honoring our veterans today.

  7. What a heart-rending story, Phyliss. Your uncle must’ve been a very courageous young man. What a shame he died so young.
    My dad was also in WWII, but he was never injured. He’s gone now. I have his old sea bag with his uniforms, manuals and some letters in it. Maybe I’ll go down and look at them today.
    What a lot we owe to these brave people who defend our freedom.

  8. Beautiful story, Phyliss. Such a treasure to have that letter. And how wonderful to have connected again with Vicki. Both of my grandfathers fought in WWII. Both returned home healthy, praise God. For all the others who sustained injuries or who did not return at all, I can’t help but shed a tear of thanks for their sacrifice. Thank you for sharing your family’s story.

  9. My Grandmother kept a letter she received from her nephew when he was fighting in Italy. When she passed on my Mother kept the letter and when she passed on my Sister got it. He talked about being in Italy and how many men he met from Oklahoma. I won A Texas Christmas from you in the Hunk contest and have never been able to thank you. Thank you so much!

  10. Phyliss…Thank You so much for writing this! Needless to say I still have tears in my eyes as I write this.
    I am so glad we found each other and you are a true blessing in my life. I lov eyou dearly!

  11. Thanks for sharing your dear uncle’s letter!
    And how wonderful that you have been able to
    reconnect with his daughter.

    Our family has been blessed in that, although
    we have had someone in all the conflicts begin-
    ning with WWII, all our heroes came safely home.

  12. Wonderful post, Phyliss. It brought me to tears. It’s a good day to remember the men and women who have sacrificed for our country. This was a special person in your life and now you have a connection to him. That’s a good thing. 🙂

  13. Phyllis thank you so much for sharing. It is hard loosing loved ones no matter when they passed. God Bless all those who have served their countries with honour and dedication and made the ulimate sacrifice.. LEST WE FORGET..

  14. I apologize to all for not getting back to post again today, and thank each of every one of you for stopping by and leaving a comment.

    And, I don’t want us to ever forget that it’s not just the men and women we are honoring today, but for the families left behind! I salute not only our military but their loved ones who also sacrifice so much. Much love and big hugs, Phyliss

  15. How wonderful that you were able to find the letter and get to know the man your uncle was. What a stroke of luck that your long lost cousin found you just s you posted about her Dad. I am sure you are both looking forward to catching up with each other.

    It is interesting to see how the country has treated its veterans during and after the wars since WWII and how the veterans themselves have responded.
    WWII was a country (world) effort. The country was directly threatened as were most of our allies. It was a duty and honor to serve the country and help preserve our way of life and save the world from a madman. Veterans were treated with respect and supported.
    The Korean conflict was not as supported, but the veterans and active duty military were still treated well.
    Vietnam came along and everything changed. The war itself was unpopular and much of that was transfered to the military and their families. Active duty personnel were vilified and attacked. The lack of community support made it difficult to recover from the experiences they had during the war. Being a vet wasn’t often something you talked about.
    The Gulf War saw things start to turn around and now things are very different. Having been a military wife during Vietnam, I am pleased to see the support the families and military are receiving from the communities. The military action may not be popular, but Americans have finally learned to separate the political part of the war from those who are ordered into combat and are on the front lines. But vets seem to be having more problems. Not sure why the disconnect, but I think part of it is the overall threat to America isn’t seen the same way it was in WWII. If you don’t see what you are doing as valid and valuable, it is hard to live with the truth of war.

    I’m off my soap box. Thanks for a lovely post. I had to smile over your uncles picture. I have the pictures of my uncles which were taken about the same time. He and they look so much alike as do many of the soldiers pictures of the time.

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