My wife Suzanne and I had the great honor of escorting WWII Veterans through the National WWII Museum in New Orleans a couple weeks ago with the Forever Young Senior Veterans Organization. The men were so humble and their stories amazing. History was brought to life by the men who fought at the very battles depicted throughout the marvelous museum. A gift to us we will never forget.
One particular museum display had a very special meaning for me–Rosie The Riveter. In 1942 a young man, John, and several cousins went to the local recruiting office to volunteer for service in the U.S. Army. He was classified as 4F due to ‘sugar’ and, to his great disappointment, was rejected. He subsequently left the backwoods of West Virginia and started working as a finishing welder at a shipyard company in Wilmington, Delaware. About the same time 400 miles south in a rural North Carolina farm community, a tobacco farmer walked into a 10th grade classroom and pulled his youngest daughter, Pauline, out of school to take over cooking duties for the family and their many farm hands. These two very trying events for two young Americans would shape their future for the next six-plus decades.
In 1944 at the young age of 17, Pauline left the tobacco farm and joined her older sister in the war effort as a Rosie The Riveter–spot welding battleships at a shipyard in Wilmington, Delaware. At the boarding house where she and many of the shipyard workers stayed, she met John. Courtship followed and soon they were married. They continued working at the shipyard until Victory In Europe (VE) Day when the shipyard initiated significant downsizing. They moved to South Charleston, WV and both were hired as welders in a bomb making factory–only this time Pauline was the finishing welder at higher pay than John, who was the spot welder–a point never lost on either of them. On Victory in Japan (VJ) Day, they celebrated the end of the war with the same enthusiasm as the rest of the world, but again, they were now unemployed.
They packed up their few belongings and moved back to John’s old stomping grounds in rural WV to build their future. John started his coal mining career and together they started their family. Four children would follow, with me being the youngest. With the coal industry being very volatile through the years, John and Pauline would manage an ESSO gas station, own a restaurant with a grocery store attached, and other businesses/professions ‘allowing’ their four kids to be very active participants. Many times Dad would be called back into the coal mines, and Mom would take over the ‘side’ businesses–with her ‘Rosie’ background, she never had a problem. Most of all, they would shower each other, us kids and grandkids with love. After 63 years of marriage, Pauline, a Rosie The Riveter and my mom, would pass away–a humble, God-fearing servant of our Lord and Savior.
My dad told me late in life that he had never really came to grips with not being able to ‘serve his country’ as a soldier in WWII. I could empathize with him. I have met many men who feel the same…as well as men who feel because they were not ‘in combat’, they deserve little recognition for their service. My dad, my mom, and all the men and women served exactly where they were needed in God’s plan. Because my dad was 4F and did not go off to war he met my Mom who had been pulled out of a school she loved and became a Rosie The Riveter. They married and had children of which I was one. Coincidence or God’s plan…I know my answer.