The words written above the pictures say it all. Russell was spending one last day in Greenwood with Sara and the Evans family before he was shipped overseas. 26 years old, scared to death, desperate for a chance to live his life as part of this warm, welcoming community at 115 East Washington. Sara had turned down his marriage proposal, probably the night before, and he seems to be putting a brave face on for the camera.
This was Russell’s life for three years, serving as a medic for the 45th Infantry, the division that saw more combat days than any other outfit in the European Theatre. I’m sure there were more days than not that he despaired of ever making it back to Greenwood. And to Sara.
By the time Sara was doing her cheesecake routine for G.I.Jabber, Russell’s spirits had likely lifted, as the war was winding down. Still ahead of him was a trek into Germany and the horrors of Dachau. But he did make it home, to Greenwood, to Sara and her delighted family, with a Minter City wedding two years after this picture was made.
Russell never bragged or complained about his years in the service. He signed up six months before Pearl Harbor, willingly, without a draft notice in his hand. He gave up almost five years of his young life for his country, packed his uniform away (I never saw it) and went forward with his career and fatherhood. There were nights when I would find him in the living room, in the dark, no light except the glow of his cigar or cigarette. When I would go in to check on him, he’d reassure me and then send me out. And I’ve always wondered where his mind was on those nights. Perhaps Anzio, maybe Rome, hopefully not at the gates of Dachau.
Here’s to my father, my own personal hero, on Veteran’s Day.