Shaping Public Policy

By Saunders, Mary Ellen | Journal of Family and Consumer Sciences, January 1, 2000 | Go to article overview

Shaping Public Policy


Saunders, Mary Ellen, Journal of Family and Consumer Sciences


About 15 years ago, both my parents had just retired and they were getting the house ready to sell. I volunteered to help clean out the things they didn't need anymore. I was in the basement going through all the "stud" two people can accumulate over a 25- year lifetime. Now, for those of you who know me, you know that there's nothing I enjoy more that going through these kinds of "treasures" - no matter how trivial they might seem, to someone, at some point in time, these artifacts of our family life meant something significant enough to be kept. I found old toys, art projects from my third grade class, my brother's tinker toy set, and remnants of my sister's chemistry set.

I also found a dust-covered accordion folder - the kind that has a string that goes around the top and bottom of the folder and ties in a bow. The folder had obviously not been touched for a very, very long time. I untied the string and looked inside and found carbon copies of letters, all of them addressed to my Dad from his days in the Army-Air Corps, the branch of service that predated the LJ.S. Air Force. The letters were all from the early to mid-1940s, during his World War 11 military service. Most were letters telling him where his next assignment would be or what new duties he would assume or that he had been promoted. It was fascinating to read these letters because, as with most of the people who participated in this history-defining period of time, my Dad had never talked about his experiences during the war. When we asked him questions, he would always deflect the answer with a funny story about one of his buddies, but he would never talk about what he did or what he saw.

About half way through the stack, I found a letter awarding my father the Silver Star with two Oak Leaf Clusters for his bravery on the field of battle. The letter's author expressed gratitude for my Dad's courage in having carried his fellow serviceman to safety after their Jeep had been blown up by an enemy land mine. The author also said he had been awarded the Purple Heart for the injuries he had sustained and wished him a quick recuperation.

read and re-read that letter - at least ten times. This was my father they were talking about - the guy that played ping-pong with me, quizzed me on states and their capitals, and watched the clock like a hawk when I was out on a date. I never knew anything of this incident in my father's life. My Mom found me sitting on the basement floor going through all those letters and I showed her that letter. She had known about it. I asked her why we had never been told about what he had done and she said simply that Dad felt that that period of time was over and his life was his family now. I asked if she knew about the injuries Dad had received and she told me that his left eardrum had been destroyed when the mine exploded under the Jeep. …

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