The latest combined casualty numbers for Iraq and Afghanistan is 4,962 dead.
As a child I remember at my grandmother house at the famed 4th street address seeing a picture of 3 smiling young men in the South Pacific.
This picture was shown in the local newspapers and is significant because it was a reunion of two brothers and their cousin. From left to right, Joe Kowaleski (cousin), Francis Poltrack (Marines) and Edward Poltrack (Pilot).
What is is extraordinary about this picture is the reunion part. The Pacific is a large place, it’s wartime, the only communication is sporadic letters. Ed writes about how he managed to arrange this meeting on Nov 22, 1943. He got Joe and tracked down Fran. He remarks about how thin and worn his brother looks. He writes how he asked about the fighting then regrets bringing it up.
About a year later the Commander of the 1st Marine Division predicted that the island of Peleliu could be taken in about 4 days. The battle lasted for 2 months. Peleliu had the the highest casualty rate of any battle in the Pacific War. The Japanese had entrenched themselves into the hillsides. It is arguable that the battle was not even necessary and a distraction from the more important goal – the Marianas.
Fran was killed at Peleiu on Sept 17th 1944, he was 25 years old. I’ve heard the stories about how my grandmother heard the doorbell in the middle of the night and went to an empty doorstep. My older cousins remember the relatives gathering at the family hotel in tears. I only know that there was an uncle I would never know.
It took me a while to understand what a “Gold Star Mother” was. My grandmother would ride with the other mothers in the parade. As a child I had no concept what they had lost.
I have a childhood friend on the wall in Washington. Fergus Connors Jr. was my buddy back in Stamford Ct when we lived in Veteran housing after the war.
Remember our war dead on this day.