This missed Memorial Day by a few days due to illness but I remember Cousin Bob very fondly. And the PTSD Puppy. Unfortunately, virtually no one else in the family does.
He passed two years ago and was always a little odd which I felt was easy to understand when you recall he was first in the RAF, then switched to the U.S. Army and was among those who parachuted into Normandy on D-Day.
He spent the rest of the war in Europe right through The Battle of the Bulge.
He never recovered completely – I got it even without watching The Longest Day and Battle of the Bulge – he was badly stressed – so badly that he simply couldn’t settle down in one place for more than a few weeks. Yes, he did have a successful business in Buffalo with his Aristocratic English wife and her kids. He brought them all to this country, but after building the business he mostly left the operation to others. Fortunately his wife was quite rich and (since the statutes are passed as are both of them) I’ll mention that he explained to me that she had made many trips home and back with bundles of cash sewn into her big coats on the way back.
Bob would drift through Central PA every fall on his way to Florida to escape Buffalo in the winter. But who wouldn’t, given the option?
He always encouraged his nerdy nephew and brought me interesting things such as a Facel Vega car to drive once, complete SCUBA gear for a dip in the Susquehanna River (which ran behind my home.)
So I eventually learned that Bob was a big wheel in the Foreign Legion and VFW contributing to the growth of both organizations after WWII.
Yet many in the family dismissed his war experiences which were probably a relatively easy gig to start with based on his previous experience as the son of a single mother back in the 20’s and 30’s in a small town. Just before enlisting in the RAF he had briefly been a professional boxer. He told me he saw his first black person in the ring and he was scared of him, so scared he took his opponent out with one punch. He never boxed again.
He retained his hatred and mistrust of Germans and Japanese his entire life, although he never went out of his way to insult or challenge them in any way – he just refused to do business with them and was very upset with his stepson for buying into a Mercedes dealership.
He had a long memory and had a lot to remember – I know he had difficulty understanding why others of his generation could forget and forgive so easily after all he had seen, especially at the end of the war.
But while many of our relatives (none of whom had been on the ground in Europe except Bob) thought he exaggerated his experiences, I saw his discharge papers and always wondered just how many other soldiers were awarded 5 (count em, five) bronze stars.
His Campaigns were listed as Southern France, Northern France, Normandy, Ardene, and Rhineland so I believed him on the rare occasions when he would talk about the war years.
But Bob was never someone to bother unless you have a very good reason.
At age 78 he was coming north to a family reunion walking his dog Baby (in the photo) and relying on his cane. He was mugged at a motel he stopped at in Georgia but the police had no trouble tracking the 220 lb. 6-ft. 32 year-old mugger. He had a badly broken nose and several cracked ribs. He also wasn’t walking very well.
PTSD Puppy: A Lifesaver
Bob loved the animals on my ranch and visited several summers in a row but his baby “Baby” was his constant companion and he passed soon after he lost her to old age. I think it was the big mistake of his life that he never had a dog before Baby. She gave him so much happiness and did him so much good.