Honoring Uncle Jack
November 9, 2012
As I began looking through an old family album the other day, I came across a picture of my Uncle Jack, smiling proudly, in his Army uniform. He was a soldier in WWII and married to my mother’s sister, Edna. Jack was a Finnish immigrant who worked with my father at Inland Steel in East Chicago, Ind. He was average height with light brown hair and blue eyes. Edna, on the other hand, had chestnut hair and brown eyes. Like many in the 1940s, Jack and Edna were just newlyweds with dreams of their future life together when he entered into the service.The pictures of their wedding day show two young people, smiling brightly for the camera. Mom and Dad, apparently their witnesses, are in the picture at their small civil ceremony. Another black-and-white snapshot shows uncle Jack dressed in his “civvies.” He’s wearing a light gray three-piece suit and has a slightly tilted matching fedora on his head. Aunt Edna is wearing a smart knee-length darker dress, belt tied neatly at her waist. She’s wearing dark pumps and sporting a small flowered hat. They’re holding hands and standing in front of a fenced bungalow. They look very happy. Next to this picture, there’s a small brown envelope with a photocopied letter inside. The large bold print on the bottom says V-mail. It’s from the War Department and its dated Sept. 22, 1944, ‘some place in France.’ The letter is addressed to my parents and the phonetic spelling is exactly as it was written by Jack. The message reads as follows: Hallou Dear, How nice to get your letter and to know you are allright and feeling well. The weather is bad here, is rain almost every-day. Please send some more of the newpaper be-cost, I real like read the paper, is good to read news from back home. Please don’t send me any-thing for Chrismas, becost I don’t need here any-thing. I write Edna and ask her to send me some coffee. That all we need here and is very hard to get here. … I thing this war be over any days now, so take good care of bouth of you self.From, Jack Beside the brown envelope, there’s a tattered clipping from an East Chicago newspaper. The headline reads, “4 More Youths Die In Battle.” The list includes the name of Pvt. Jack E. Makinen. Killed in France, Sept. 22, 1944. Died in furious fighting in the Allied drive toward Berlin. Ironically, it’s the same date of the V-mail letter to my parents. It must have been devastating when Edna heard the news. How haunting it must have felt to think of Jack in battle, somewhere in a foreign country, probably in a foxhole, maybe shivering from the cold rainy conditions, finding time to write a note to her and his family. There were many who have died in battles before and after WWII and they never made it back to their homes and loved ones. They gave up their lives at the hand of the enemy, for the cause of freedom. They are buried at sea, missing in action or even left in unmarked graves. My uncle Jack is one of them. He never came home.After an Internet search of the National Archives, I learned he is buried at Lorraine American Cemetery located in St. Avold (Moselle), France. He is listed as Rank: Private, U.S. Army, 314th Infantry Regiment, 79th Infantry Division. Plot: E Row: 6 Grave: 27. Awards: Purple Heart.I was born the year my uncle died, so I never had the privilege to meet him. I am proud of him for his bravery and supreme sacrifice. He along with many others in the military are the rocks which help build the bridges of true democracy. We must never forget them.•Sonja Fischer is a Dayton resident.