Youth is the face of war | Editorial

My uncle, Elmer Johnson, was a tail gunner on a flying fortress and was shot down over Berlin during the first daylight raid. Elmer was 19 and died that day. My grandmother and Elmer’s mother told me he was shot across his chest. He was able to get out of the plane, but his parachute either did not open or he was not able to pull the cord.

I was driving past the veteran memorial in Enumclaw this weekend and I thought about my uncle’s name that is on the memorial.

Behind the name is a story like so many others.

George Rossman came in the office this morning and we talked about the Memorial Day service at the memorial. I started thinking once again about my uncle at the effect of his death on my grandma, grandpa and my mother, his sister.

I thought I would run a column about his story I published a year ago in the Tukwila Reporter.

My uncle, Elmer Johnson, was a tail gunner on a flying fortress and was shot down over Berlin during the first daylight raid. Elmer was 19 and died that day. My grandmother and Elmer’s mother told me he was shot across his chest. He was able to get out of the plane, but his parachute either did not open or he was not able to pull the cord.

No one knows.

I remember all the years I was growing up seeing this person in a uniform staring out of the frame of an 8-by-10 inch photograph. To me at age 7, he was a man. Today I know he was a 19-year-old boy. And that is the true face of war and what it means.

My grandmother told me the story of his life many times, and I could never hear it enough times.

He was 17, attending Enumclaw High School. He was in Violet Cass’s science class.

Grandma told me how handsome he was, tall with dark, wavy hair. All the girls liked Elmer.

He was a boy looking for something beyond the walls of Enumclaw High and Cass’s class.

It was near the end of the year and the war was raging in Europe.

One day Miss Cass asked Elmer to stay after class. She told him she knew he was a smart boy, but he was failing her class because he couldn’t keep his thoughts inside the classroom walls.

Miss Cass told Elmer if he would take one last test, she would pass him. Just get through the test.

Although he died before I was born, I can see him in that room with Miss Cass. She was my teacher in seventh grade.

Elmer told Miss Cass he knew she was trying to help him, and he appreciated it, but he just couldn’t spend one more day waiting for his life to begin, waiting inside that classroom.

Elmer went home and asked my grandpa, his dad, to sign for him to get into the service. He told grandpa he couldn’t wait, that he might miss all the action. There was no wait in Elmer, and my grandpa knew, and he never forgave himself for signing that paper.

I still remember a photograph in a box at my grandma’s house of my grandpa receiving Elmer’s purple heart. The look in his eyes in that newspaper photograph still haunts me.

Grandma told me after they received confirmation Elmer was shot down and was dead, Violet Cass came to see grandpa.

She thought it was her fault Elmer went into the war, because of her class. My grandpa told her there was no stopping that boy. Enumclaw just couldn’t hold him.

A few hours later after Miss Cass left, my mother found her dad sitting alone in the back of the milking barn, crying. He was holding a piece of wood with Elmer’s and a girl’s name roughly carved into it.

The real face of war.

I am really looking forward to seeing the flying fortress, and connecting some historical dots.

More in Opinion

Humility allows for tolerance of other’s opinions

Each of us has grown up in different circumstances. Each has been shaped by our life experiences. Each of us sees the world around us differently as a result. Why, then, should it be so difficult to understand that no two people will agree on every issue?

President Trump working toward the vision of our Founders

President Trump is working to return power and liberty to the people.

Inslee: ‘It’s our state’s destiny … to fight climate change’

In his State-of-the-State address, the governor made the case for an ambitious carbon tax.

Culture, politics have and continue to shape race relations

“The central conservative truth is that it is culture, not politics, that determines the success of a society. The central liberal truth is that politics can change a culture and save it from itself.”

Better luck this year, Eyman

2017 was a stinky year for Tim Eyman. It ended with a thud last week when he confessed to not collecting enough signatures to get onto the ballot a measure that would reduce car tab fees and kneecap Sound Transit.

Reasons why Europe dominated the world

Most of you have never heard of Zheng He. Between 1405 and 1433, this Chinese admiral of the Ming Dynasty led seven major explorations into the western reaches of the Indian Ocean. The largest of these explorations included almost 300 ships and carried close to 30,000 people.

Don’t label all Trump supporters as racist

While the column correctly points out that Trump supporters are happy with his performance and still enthusiastically support him, Mr. Elfers had to inject the liberal “lie” that Trump supporters are racist.

Political turmoil makes nations stronger

Finish this sentence: “What doesn’t kill you___________.” This is how I introduced my recent continuing education class entitled, “President Trump a Year Later.” Of course, this quote is normally completed with the words, “makes you stronger.”

U.S., Russia agree on Middle East situation

Since Russia helped Syria’s Bashar al-Assad stay in power and helped to defeat ISIS, are Russia and the U.S. at odds in the Middle East? Is Russia threatening American dominance in the region? The answer to both is no.

Page-turners: Best books of 2017

Continuing an end-of-year tradition that dates back more than 15 years, the King County Library System has chosen its Best Books of 2017.

Anthem protests about equality, not disrespect

For all who write negative comments about the football players who took a knee and posted that “this is not the America we grew up in,” let me share a few of the personal events from my life growing up in Tacoma Washington as a white woman.

Trump supporters’ attitude still the same

“Support Trump? Sure,” she said. “I like him.” These words by Pam Shilling from Trump Country western Pennsylvania reflect what many Trump supporters are thinking a year after the 2016 election victory, according to an article excerpted from “Politico.com” by “The Week” (Dec. 1, 2017).