Posted September 2016 and updated August 2019
Passing on Family History Through Stories
My name is Jack Burr. I’m 79 years old. The older I get the more inclined I am to be frank and honest with others. But most of all with myself. Which brought me to the place where I admitted that I had been troubled with depression for many years. I never believed in the crock of PTSD. People who are unable to deal with hard times are simply weak. But I’ve changed my mind since I have time to let my mind wonder untethered . It finds places I had locked up memories of unreconciled thoughts.
The truth of combat is grisly, ugly and unforgettable. I sometimes would wake at night and wonder why unbidden thoughts brought tears leaking from my eyes. I was reliving the heartbreak of a lost comrade or carrying a dead soldier away from enemy bullets. After many such sleepless nights, I brought my malady to Phyllis, my understanding wife. She listened and offered ways to regain my emotional balance.
The avenue to wellness was to probe my memory for causative details which before I was unwilling or unable to do so. Writing about those details was therapeutic and liberating. One thing led to another and now I am writing about people and events that are important to me. My Lord, my family and the brave soldiers I served with under difficult circumstances.
My son Rick is the tech whiz that put this together. Thanks Rick.
I started this project almost 3 years ago. I thought I’d give my readers an update on my progress. A few months ago I stopped writing stories because I had exhausted whatever creative juices that propelled me to write in the first place. I have shifted my focus to making contact with veterans, sharing experiences, encouragement and my faith .
Most of the over 100 stories I have written were posted to my facebook page and were read over 34,000 times by about 22,000 visitors. My favorite story is the one about the time I met Phyllis and married her six months later. That was over 60 years ago.
The most emotional story during my teenage years was “A Lesson In Love”. That event left such an impression on me that I have used it as a guide in my personal life. I’ve also told the story when teaching about “love” in Sunday School classes. Another such story was my first story “Honesty and Respect”. My most important story was about meeting the Lord and accepting His offer of salvation.
Let me get to my purpose, which is to describe two events which have made this endeavor worthwhile.
Two of the several soldiers that I met in the past two years have passed away. It was my good fortune to have found them it time. SGT Pace Caldwell was an outstanding and brave Fire Team Leader who was wounded in battle on 20 January, 1967.
While searching for men he had served with, SGT Pace had left me an email on a military website. The email sat there for sixteen years before I accidentally found it. After I read the email, I called Pace and after an emotionally reunion, we arranged to meet. Phyllis and I drove to Fort Benning, GA and met Pace and his wife, Dot. We became fast friends.
Pace unexpectedly past away a few weeks ago. Phyllis and I feel fortunate to have found Pace and are particularly happy that he gave evidence of salvation in Christ, which gives us great comfort. We have talked to Dot several times since and intend to continue our friendship with this wonderful lady.
Several soldiers helped me locate SGT Dill, a close and loyal friend who served his country in Vietnam in 1969. In January of 2017 Phyllis and I learned that SGT Dill lived in North Carolina and was in Hospice care. We left the next morning, driving two days to see SGT Dill.
We met his wife, Donna, who explained that her husband obtained a theological education and had worked in a local church but seldom talked of his time in Vietnam. Donna told us that her husband (whom she called Eddie) seemed not to respond, due to his brain injury, when family talked to him
That also seemed to be the case when I talked him the first day. Phyllis and I stayed a while and talked to the family. I also talked about the things SGT Dill did in Vietnam and stood by his bed and told his relatives what a good soldier he was.
As we returned the next to continue our stay with the family, Donna handed me a letter of appreciation that I had written 48 years earlier. It was addressed to SGT Dill.
I placed my hand on Eddie’s arm and read the letter of praise, pausing at times to keep my emotions in check. As I was about half way through the letter, Eddie reached with his other hand toward me. As I grasp his hand, I noticed a tear had dropped from his eye and ran down his cheek. I finished the letter and we said our goodbyes a short time later.
A few hours later as we were driving back to Oklahoma, Donna called and told us that Eddie had passed away. It was a sad time. But we were fortunate to have been able to talk to Eddie before he was taken home to be with the Lord.
As I look back to the unlikely circumstances that fell into place allowing old soldiers to be reacquainted, I am heartened to know that all of us had experienced the saving grace of Jesus Christ, our risen Savior.
Thank you Phyllis for encouraging me to write. Writing has been both therapeutic and liberating. Soldiers I wrote about contacted me and ultimately led me to Pace and Eddie. I believe that God has used this endeavor to further His purpose. Perhaps He is not through with me yet.