"Pa - so you thought I forgot your anniversary. Well, at least Ma stood by me. I'm glad you liked the card. . . I received a letter from Seymour on Tuesday and he tells me that he made P.F.C - You can't imagine what a kick I got out of hearing this. I went around and passed cigarettes to the boys just like a father passes out cigars when he gets a baby"
"You ask what's new with me. There is still nothing definite to tell you. We may as well not kid each other - when I finish my training here I will be due to go over. . . Please don't start worrying about me - there is still plenty of time for that. . . I'm not worried about anything except that you are worrying about me. This is a great experience for me and I'm sure I will benefit by it. Why, there must be a million fellows who would do anything to trade places with me and get on a B-29 crew"
Those words were written by my uncle, Lieutenant Edward Heiss, US Army Air Force, in letters to his parents in January and February, 1944. He signed off, as he did all his letters, with "I am feeling fine. So long. Lots of love, Eddie." One year later, on January 11, 1945, his B-29 fell to the ground in pieces somewhere over Malaysia. Of the eleven crew members, only three made it out alive---he was not one of those three.
When I was growing up, a colored version of this photo was on my grandmother's dresser. I was curious who it was, but somehow, never asked. I don't remember when or how I found out who he was. My father has given me bits and pieces through the years. I still don't know much, but I feel very connected to him. I have always wondered how my family's life would have been different if he had come home.
I wonder about this man--the one so often photographed with a smile. The one who, as my father tells it, convinced my dad to go with him to Yankee Stadium one Rosh Hashonah. The commanding officer of his squardron wrote my grandparents, "No matter how fatigued he may have been, or how he felt personally, Edward always had a laugh and a word of encouragement, to cheer the other members of his crew and squadron. . . He undoubtedly was one of the best liked officers in this organization."
I would have rather had him in my life.
On Memorial Day we need to remember that war, justified or not, will always take its toll.