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From the Ashes the American Phoenix Always Rises
By Earl D. Beauchamp, Jr.

    
     My white hair deceives my real age, for I am not old enough to remember Pearl Harbor, but I do remember World War II.

     I remember the term “War Bonds” and air raid wardens, commentator Gabriel Heater and seeing my parents’ friends and relatives put on uniforms and go off to War.

     I remember my mother taking the paper labels from cans of food and crushing the cans “for the War effort”. I remember my dad having to acquire a tire from a lifelong friend with a service station, so he could rescue my aunt by the side of Route One during a trip she was taking to Colonial Beach. 

     My parent’s house in Arlington, Virginia was a Cape Cod. My dad finished two bedrooms on the second floor so he could rent the two lower bedrooms to “government girls” who had come to man the offices in Washington. They slept two in a room, and made a lot over me as a child.

     My dad built a “Victory Garden” in the back yard. To harrow the garden he drove large nails through a wood triangle that he’d built and dragged it around the garden by attaching a rope to it and putting the rope around his shoulders. Dad also told me when the War began, he visited his cousin, Dan Davis, who ran a store in Haynesville, and stocking his car with canned goods for the days to come.

     I remember young military men on furlough coming to see their wives or girl friends who lived in our house. I remember blackout curtains over the windows so the air raid warden couldn’t see the light of the radio dial. My dad listened to Gabriel Heater every night, and when the air raid warden would walk the streets during a drill, my dad would put a blanket over his head and the radio to hear the news. “Ah, my friends, there’s good news tonight,” I can still hear Gabriel Heater say. 

     I remember when my uncle was drafted and my grandmother had to take his two children while his wife worked in the War effort. 

     And, in this day of sadness when the Pentagon has been bombed by a Kamikaze pilot, I can remember my own first sight of the Pentagon. My grandfather Havenner, an ace carpenter, worked on the construction of the Pentagon. I can, to this day, remember going with my parents to see or pick him up one evening. There he was, up on the roof of the building, waving to us. Later, he went to work in Alexandria at the Torpedo Plant, building crates for the torpedoes of War. My grandmother was an American Red Cross Volunteer, and a member of the “Navy Civilian Service.” I have her medals for those things, even though I am not certain what her service was.

     And, I remember the day Franklin Roosevelt died, but curiously I cannot remember the day the War ended, or the days they dropped the atomic bombs.

     I remember, though, very well the months and years that followed World War II. Soldiers, Sailors and Marines came home, all proud victors for liberty. I remember some with claws for hands; a musician I worked with who had a mortar hole in his leg. I remember the family talking about the dire injuries suffered by a cousin’s husband, Wilson Walsh, who now lives in Montross.

     But they all went back to work and built homes, and new cars (which hadn’t been built since 1942), and went to college on the GI Bill, and brought us into the wonderful 1950’s of my teenage years. They were true heroes. They saved our freedom, and then their generation came home to build a better America.

     I walked the halls of the Pentagon frequently during my own 35 years working for our country. I was aghast when I saw that building that my grandfather helped to build struck such a horrible blow.

     But America will rise from the ashes of these attacks and be led to victory over this new threat and scourge. The sons and grandsons of those men and women I remember from my childhood will stand the test and match the steel of their forebears. It is with great pride in our people that I see the American flags being flown everywhere I’ve been these last several days in the Northern Neck. This is America, a special place in a special time. America’s founders rose above tyranny to start this democratic republic, and our forebears have stood the test time and again. All we need to do is stand up and support our leaders, our men in uniform, and do whatever else we have to do, be it drive old cars with worn out tires, support scrap drives, crush cans or buy War Bonds. We have the metal to stand the test. 

© 2001 Earl D. Beauchamp, Jr. All Rights Reserved


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