Happy 97th birthday to my father, Russell Criss. He’s a cocksure 25 years old in that picture above, ready to serve his country as a medic in the 45th Infantry. The next few years would be spent in a hell beyond what any young man should ever endure.
Now he’s made it back home, and home by 1945 was 115 East Washington, Greenwood, Mississippi. That was where all those letters from Sara and Tricia and Mamie and Son and Jessie and Big and Uncle Roy had poured forth for four long years, carried from that safe corner to Sicily and Anzio and Salerno and Paris and Dachau and Munich. He’s a much, much older man in this picture, though still only 28. But he could still blow bubbles with Tricia and a neighborhood kid, and that was the attitude he carried forward through his long and happy life.
I’m going through some of the boxes of WWII materials now, and I run across the 45th Infantry’s Thunderbird emblem quite often. Russell and Sara actually made a trek to Oklahoma to visit the 45th Museum, and I plan to do the same one day. It was a proud division and I assume that there were a lot of brave, dedicated men who made it one of Army’s finest. But in my mind, 70 years later, it all revolved around one unlikely medic who spent his war saving lives and the rest of his life making me happy.
Hope it’s a Happy 97th, Daddy. Miss you.