Monday, January 28, 2013
A Very Special Man
Anyone recognize the man with a cigarette in his mouth offering a smoke to a buddy?
Nobody I ever met, but a man thousands of World War Two veterans knew and had deep appreciation for. His name was Ernie Pyle, and his newspaper articles about the average GI told
an amazing story of privation, courage, and sacrifice. He didn't spend time extolling the greatness of senior level commanders - instead he shared foxholes with everyday fighters for freedom. In the end,
like so many heroes of the fighting fields, ashore and at sea, he lost his life in a far-off battlefield..
Ernie Pyle was an extraordinary everyday kind of a person. A Hoosier from eastern Indiana, he had the gift of writing about the guy down the street who responded to the call of his country and did it to reflect the sacrifice of ordinary men in extraordinary circumstances.
One thing I never knew about Ernie Pyle was that before the war he wrote newspaper columns about everyday Americans. Like John Steinbeck in 'Travels With Charlie', Ernie traveled all over the United States. His company, rather than a canine, was his wife who was called, for lack of a better description, "That Girl." Actually, her name was Jerry, but we all have our pet names for our mates.
Ernie's travels have been locked into book form in a volume titled "Home Country" which I found in
a shop selling clothes, furniture, electronics, old 33 RPM records, and yes, a lot of cast-off books.
Looking at the flyleaf of "Home Country", I see printing dates between 1935 and 1940. So, what could this book have to do with our life in the twenty-first century?
First, it reflects a potpourri of history as it was. Built around everyday people of the time, it colorfully reveals life back in the thirties. But at the same time, in a lot of ways, it reflects life today. In a very positive way it reveals human nature in a variety of situations. And it expresses the life of both ordinary and extraordinary people in a way that tugs at the heartstrings and at the same time reflects the beauty of our nation as well as the humorous side of people. In short, I loved the book may well keep it to read again and again.
Interestingly enough, it's not just a book out of someones closet or attic -- it is still available in different printings, even a reprint in the 1980's, from Amazon. I thoroughly enjoyed it - and commend it to your bookshelf. It goes to show that an ordinary guy from Indiana has had an enduring ability to not only put himself in the shoes of men called to battle, but also in the shoes of everyday people whose lives have not faded away but live on in many ways today.