I'd been busier than a box fan in August, so I knew didn't need to add a single thing to my schedule. But when I saw the email from Robert Ford, artistic director of TheatreSquared, inviting me to a reading of his original play, I was hard pressed to decline. After all, it was just across the street at the Walmart World Room that Sunday afternoon, and Bob's wife, Amy Herzberg, would be reading it.
Being in such close proximity, and believing Amy to be cooler than the other side of the pillow, I sauntered over to listen to what I thought would be a nice tribute to World War II soldiers. I had no idea that what I was about to hear would hit so close to home.
The actors took the stage and began reading My Father's War, the fictionalized retelling of Amy's father's real-life landing at Normandy. When Amy dons her father's old helmet, she is drawn into the events her father told her about over the years. She knows these stories. She knows what happens next. Or does she?
Sometimes the stories we tell ourselves perfume a truth that haunts us.
The men in my family who served did not speak much about the wars. I understand my father was a casualty officer in Vietnam. He sent fallen soldiers' personal effects with a letter back home to their families. I have the things he left behind when he left my mother and me -- his medals, Army name patch and 35 mm slides of China Beach. In the photos, he seemed particularly fond of a dog on that beach. When asked, he said he didn't remember much. Agent Orange wreaked havoc on him, and I often wonder whether my auto-immune disorders aren't linked to his exposure.
I'm told PawPaw, my mother's step-father -- the only father she ever really knew -- was on the adjacent Hawaiian island when Pearl Harbor was hit. He wouldn't watch war movies, even if John Wayne was in them. The one time I asked him point blank about World War II, he stared toward the screen door, but I don't think he was seeing the door. His eyes moistened. He whispered he had done some things he shouldn't have.
How easy it is to don a white hat and cast ourselves as the hero of a story. As I watched an actor lift the spoils of war from a dead German boy's limp wrist, I glimpsed the reflection from PawPaw's screen door. Some folks spend the rest of their lives trying to wipe off dirt from old white hats.
Today, June 6, marks the 75th anniversary of D-Day, the day on which Allied forces invaded northern France via beach landings in Normandy. Over 425,000 troops were killed, wounded or went missing. It remains the largest seaborne invasion in recorded history.
Let us not forget their sacrifice, lest we find ourselves back on the shoreline.
NAN Our Town on 06/06/2019
Print Headline: War story hits close to home