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Monday, August 13, 2007Sometimes I think about the people that might have been. Not so much about someone not living up to their potential...but about just how close you came to not existing period.
Emmitt wasn't planned. In fact, he was one heck of a surprise. Had it been up to our timing, it would have been another egg, another sperm and another child altogether. My mother had a miscarriage before I was born. If that pregnancy had lasted, would she have had me?
How many of you have children that weren't planned...but that you now can't imagine life without. How many have lost a child that might have been?
Now I don't usually get all touchy-feely-preachy here, but I was reading an article today about my Grandfather and his time on Iwo Jima during WWII and I was reminded of just how many times he should have stopped existing. (And since my dad was born after the war, you can follow the logic to just how close I came to not existing.)
The article touches on one story (the foxhole) but doesn't really give the details. It leaves out two other near death experiences as well.
1.) The Foxhole - Grandpa was a machine gunner on Iwo Jima. He traveled with a tiny little Filipino national who lay under the rifle and fed the string of bullets in. Grandpa said they could get off two to three bursts of fire before they had to move, because it generally only took that long for the Japanese to zero in on their location. He said the first mortar always went long or short, the second one got a little closer and the third one nailed you.
On this day, they'd gotten two rounds off and Grandpa was ready to move. His partner swore they could get one more burst off if they did it quickly. Grandpa agreed and says that as he pulled the trigger, the world just went dark.
He woke up on the ground outside the fox hole covered in blood. They never did find his loader.
2.) The Landing Craft - Grandpa went on shore on one of those landing crafts like you see in every war movie where they storm a beach. When they got to shore, the front went down and they were all supposed to run out and start making their way up the beach to the cliffs.
The problem was, no one would move. (Can you blame them? I've seen Saving Private Ryan, no way would I want to get out of that boat.) Grandpa says the officer with them ordered them to leave the boat and still...no one moved. Finally the officer pulled out his side arm and said "you either go and risk getting shot by the Japanese, or you stay and risk getting shot by me." Folks still weren't moving and grandpa was standing pretty close to that side arm, so he climbed the side of the boat (they had open tops) and went over the side.
As he was falling toward the water, he heard this huge explosion. A mortar had landed right in the middle of the boat he'd just jumped out of.
3.) Sniper Fire - When Grandpa was on Iwo Jima, the tanks weren't as well equipped as they are now. In fact, the tank drivers really couldn't see out enough to see where they were going. That meant that someone had to walk behind the tank with a walkie talkie, telling them which way to go.
The problem was, the Japanese knew what these soldiers/marines were doing and that made them a prime target for snipers. Because of that, the average life span for one of these guys was about 10 minutes. At one point while he was on the island, Grandpa got assigned to this gig. Half an hour later, he was still alive. One of the officers, who liked grandpa saw him down there and ordered that he be switched out. Somehow, the message never made it down and 15 minutes later, he was still there. The officer saw him again and went and switched him out himself.
The next guy only lasted about 2 or 3 minutes.
Grandpa always said that he never did anything special over there. He was just a kid trying to get home to his family in one piece. Getting out alive reminded him that he needed to spend the rest of his life making an impact.
If you've ever seen Saving Private Ryan, you'll remember the scene where the old man breaks down, wondering if he'd lived a life that was "worth it" after having come home safe and sound.
When you think about it from that perspective...it kind of makes you want to go out and do something to leave your mark on the world, doesn't it? What have you done lately to make sure your life has an impact? It doesn't have to be something major that will get you in the history books. Just something that has a positive impact on someone else's life.
Make it a point this week to say thanks for the simple fact that you exist...that your kids exist...by giving a little something.
Labels: Life as a Mom