Men who have brothers are fortunate. My favorite person when I was a kid was my only brother. He was two years older than me.
Johnny was the smart one, but I was the better shot with a .22 rifle and a fishing pole. He got two double promotions in elementary school, so instead of being two years ahead of me when I became a freshman, he had graduated and moved away to Indianapolis. I missed having him around.
Living was rough during the Great Depression, and then Japan attacked Pearl Harbor. The only time I saw my brother again, he came home in uniform. He was a paratrooper in the 101st Airborne Division. I admired his shiny boots.
When I became 17, I enlisted in the navy. We communicated by mail but then his letters stopped for a time. Later, I got a few more from England. He made fun of me for floating around in bathtubs. I told him it was dumb to jump out of perfectly good airplanes.
In September 1944, I learned that Johnny had been wounded on D-Day and hospitalized in England. I received no more letters from my brother. Our mother kept me advised as to his whereabouts when she knew. I was in the Mediterranean.
My final invasion occurred on the beaches of what is now the French Riviera in Southern France in August 1944. Arriving back in Naples, I got a letter from my mother advising me that my favorite person had been killed in the Battle of the Bulge on Dec. 19, 1944. He was almost 21 years old.
When visiting my home in Indiana, I occasionally got down the box containing Johnnie's military mementos: two Purple Hearts, two Bronze Stars, Silver parachute pins, dog tags, a marksmanship medal, a letter from President Franklin Roosevelt and a notification from the War Department. It was always a painful experience.
I went to a garage sale and I saw a Purple Heart with a $5 price tag. I wondered what would happen to Johnnie's stuff when I am gone. To my family, he is only a photograph on the wall. When my father died, I brought the box home and put it up on a shelf in my den. When writing my book, I sometimes opened the box and studied the Screaming Eagle patch.
Returning from my high school reunion in Indiana, my wife and I stopped by the museum for the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell, Ky. I returned home immediately and ordered a shadow box made from eternal wood. I placed my brother's memorabilia in the shadow box and presented it to the museum curator. It is now featured in the Battle of the Bulge Pavilion in the museum. He is with his Band of Brothers.
While cruising World War II Web sites, I found that the 506th regiment of the 101st Airborne Division had received a Presidential Unit Citation for heroism in the Normandy invasion. It was not among my brother's mementos. I inquired at the 101st Airborne Division base. It had been an oversight many years ago.
Sixty-six years later, I received my brother's Presidential Unit Citation. In June, on my way to my 66th school reunion, I will stop by the museum at the 101st Airborne Division base in Fort Campbell. I will open his shadowbox and add the Presidential Citation to my brother's military mementos. I will then stop worrying.
Bill York is a Lawrenceville resident.