In early 1942, left out, we were. America’s early draft calls were heard on every radio and every movie screen. Many had high draft numbers, we did, and we peeped at the mail every morning shaking our heads when none was to be found.
Two days after Pearl Harbor, in the back room of my dad’s men’s shop on Mermaid Avenue it was. President Roosevelt stood at the microphone. His voice on our tiny radio came in cold and gravelly, asking congress to declare war on the deceitful Japanese who had dared to bomb and destroy our fleet in Pearl Harbor, in the Hawaiian Islands.
Our Congress replied with a unanimous vote to send them our troops, our fleets, and our bombs from over their skies.
America came alive in the ship yards and auto plants to begin building bombers, warships, cargo ships, and troopships.
Every American waited for the mailman for a call to arms to travel or work in new vital industries geared toward the war effort.
When the call came, my mom had opened my mail. Proud tears she wore as she handed me my draft call.
I took a small handbag and stood waiting for the Sea Gate bus on the corner of Laurel and Sea Gate avenues. My mom came up beside me for one more kiss goodbye, she did.
Then off the bus and onto the Norton’s Point Trolley to the Sea Beach train headed for Downtown. From there we were ferried to our Staten Island headquarters for medical examinations and induction.
I told the sergeant that I wanted to be in the Air Force
His reply was terse: “You will go where we send you.”
My friend Jack and I hit Fort Dix together after many examinations and new uniforms. We shipped out together for basic training in the muddy fields of Biloxi, MI. We sweated through training in the heat of the deep south, we did, and struggled with every mosquito that swarmed. Lo, we shipped out separately — Jack headed to Military Police school and I on a troop train to my birth state of South Dakota.
All these memories were awakened last week when I opened the news letter from Kelley’s Kobras and I got a shocking jolt when I saw the brazen headline that read “Final Edition, July 2012.”
On the front page was a photo of our group president and his wife, Emil and Margaret Serva, and another photo of this year’s host Jeff Bell and his reunion team, five daughters who made every reunion that Kelley’s Kobras met.
How could this be a final edition? Why, I ask.
Our editor, James Leddy, Jr, the son of our deceased member volunteered to serve our bomb group in memory of his dad. Leddy added that “closure pained him,” but he served us so wonderfully. His newsletter always included one of my “Speak Out” columns, and in every issue he advised our veterans to read it at BrooklynDaily.com
It may have read “final edition,” but the memories are not final to me.
They will live forever up there with my roommate and departed friend, Anthony Bianchi. Tony served our country for 20 years and never stopped after his discharge. One of our departed vets had a death wish to be cremated with his ashes dropped from a B24 over Lake Michigan. Tony got the job done, a soldier’s death wish fulfilled. Rest in Peace, Tony, and farewell to my brothers. It was great ride together.
The pain of departure shall ache each of us, but the solace was our togetherness each year.
But now that solace will only come from memories.
This is Lou Powsner.Lou Powsner, America's Oldest Columnist, has been speaking out for Brooklyn since the 1950s. Read his column twice a month on BrooklynDaily.com .