|My Uncle John Tipton (on the right)|
Today is Veterans' Day. I would like to honor two of my uncles who served in World War II.
John Hannum Tipton was my father's younger brother. He was a paratrooper during World War II. He was captured by the Germans shortly after he parachuted into Belgium during World War II in 1943. He was a prisoner of war for two years. He escaped twice and was recaptured twice. He was liberated in April of 1945, two months after his mother died. His mother (my paternal grandmother) died think Uncle John died in the war. My younger brother John, who was born in 1944 was named after my Uncle John, in his memory, my father also thinking his brother had died in the war. Uncle John was held as a prisoner of war by the Germans in an Austrian castle. I wish I could have talked to him about that but his widow, my Aunt Peggy, said John would never talk about his experience except to say that they ate potato soup made of potato skins, which at that time was considered garbage. Little did the Germans know that their prisoners were eating the mot beneficial part of the potato. I love potato skins and twice baked stuffed potatoes. In fact I had one tonight. In a cruel twist of fate, my Uncle John died in an industrial accident at thirty-nine years of age. He was a painter. His overalls turpentine coated overalls caught on fire from a discarded cigarette. He died three days later of burns over eighty-percent of his body. The last time I saw him he was swathed in bandages and looked like a mummy. He was my favorite uncle. He was the only uncle I had who would give me an occasional friendly wink. He never treated me like a child. He was also my cousins favorite uncle. I was a pallbearer at his funeral. I cried uncontrollably when I helped to carry his casket (along with my two younger brothers, all of us in our Army uniforms - we were all in the Army at that time) when we entered the Catholic church to the choir singing. I will never forget that beautiful moment. Thank you Uncle John for your service to our country.
|George Lincoln Hadfield, Jr.|
My other uncle who served in the Army during the war was my Mother's older brother, George Lincoln Hadfield. He served in Germany in the Engineer Corps. Uncle George survived the war. Never married. I always suspected he was gay but I have no proof of that. He also did not treat me like a child. He didn't wink at me but always was kind and warm to me. I looked forward to seeing him every Christmas when he would come around with a cash gift for me and my brothers. Uncle George lived with his father all his life. A year after his father (my grandfather) died, Uncle George also died in a freak accident. He retired from Lukens Steel on Friday, July 1, 1983. He was mowing his grass that Saturday July 2nd. A bee stung him in his throat. He went into shock and died Sunday July 3rd, 1983. The irony is that he lived his whole live with his father, who died the year before. Uncle George only got to live a year by himself before he died. I will always regret that I didn't have a chance to talk to him about why he never married. I was too caught up in my life at that time. But I do remember at my grandfather's funeral the year before when Uncle George saw me, he gave me a "knowing look." I had not seen him for some years (since I was a kind of ten or so) and he seem to "understand" that we were kindred spirits. Was Uncle George gay? I'll never know. He was hunter and very masculine. Uncle George private life will remain a family mystery.
Today I honor both of these men, uncles on both sides of my family for their service to our country and for being uncles who were to me more loving than my father was not. I often tried to imagine a life where either one of these men was my father instead of the father I had, who incidentally did not service in the service. He was medically exempt. Believe it or not my father was hit in the head with a hatchet when he was ten years old (I'm not kidding) and had a brain concussion and thus exempt from the service during World War II. Also the fact that he had three children under the age of five years. During the war my father was a long distance truck driver so he did his part for the War effort too, not to diminish him. But my father was distant and not loving or accepting. I've often wondered would I be gay if I had a father who was loving and accepting like my Uncle John or Uncle George? Well, I've went long enough on this tangent which was supposed to be a tribute to two of my uncles who service this country during time of war.
Thank you Uncle John and Uncle George. You will always live forever in my memory as loving and kind men.