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  • Writer's pictureJohn Stoj

We All Have One Job Now - To Get "Home"

My father was a squad leader during the Battle of the Bulge. I'm lucky to have a few old pictures of the guys, one of which can see above. As the name implies, the German attack created a huge "bulge" in the Allied lines, which changed swiftly as the Germans achieved total surprise at the beginning of the offensive. At some point, my father and his squad found themselves not only separated from the rest of their unit, but also behind enemy lines. From the moment they ascertained their rather precarious situation, their mission changed, and the sole job - my father's sole job - was to get his men home.

Throughout the course of over a week, they hid & fought, picking their way back to the American lines, like characters in some war movie. My dad received the Bronze Star for his actions during that period. By working together, and with good leadership, they made it back to the American side, but unfortunately not before losing one of their comrades. At some point, they knew they were surrounded by German positions. All they could do was hunker down in a makeshift bunker and be as quiet as possible, as they could hear the Germans talking as they passed by on a nearby road. Talk about a stressful situation. One of the men couldn't take the waiting, and no matter what the other guys said or did - even physically restraining him at times, he broke away from the rest of the squad & ran. The guys never saw him again. I know that bothered my dad for the rest of his life. He didn't talk often about the war, but I heard him tell more than a few times about how that man's mother tracked him down after the war to see what had really happened. He told her what he felt would make her happy.

The rest of the guys kept in touch for a while after the war - probably into the 50's. They attended some unit reunions in New York City that look like a blast from the few pictures I have. Everyone there had a different story about how they made it home. They also likely had regrets & sadness about those who didn't make it. But eventually life went back to "normal," enough so that they really didn't think of the war much at all.

The novel coronavirus pandemic has made my think about my dad a lot. Really, both of my parents, since my soon to be 90 year old mom, though only 2.5 miles away from us, is isolated in her apartment for safety's sake. I had a whole blog post just about ready to publish on how different things were only four weeks ago, not getting caught up in financial market performance, applying good financial planning principles, taking care of yourself, etc., and while that's all true, I felt it implied a "passivity" overall that isn't exactly what's called for right now.

Just like my dad's mission changed 75 years ago on the freezing fields of Belgium & Luxembourg, our missions changed when COVID-19 hit our shores. Maybe we don't think of our lives as mission based, but we all have them; going to work or school every day, providing for our families, keeping our children fed & clothed, etc. These are all missions. COVID-19 shifted them, giving every one of us the same primary mission: get through this. Get to the other side - home, and drag as many of our family members & fellow citizens as we can along with us.

We already know the sad truth that not everyone will make it, but most of us will, and it's our job not only to get, "home," but once there, to lend a hand to those who were wounded along the way, whether physically, emotionally, or financially. It won't be our job to lay blame or to point out personal errors, but to help the world return to whatever will be the new normal.

And it will return to normal, we just don't know exactly when, and if we see someone having a difficult time with social isolation, etc., let's do what we can to ease their burden.

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