Maxine Clamage 

Letters to a Lost Soldier – What was lost has been found

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Dear Daddy,

(I originally wrote in November, 1947) Why did you take me to watch the boxing matches? Why did we have to witness boys beating each other up with blood pouring out of their noses? You said you wanted me to see someone get pummeled, punched, bloodied, knocked out on the mat and then get up again before the count of 10. “If you can get up before the count of ten,” you said, “you can still be a champ.”

You are a champ, Daddy. Thank you for getting up before the count of ten and coming home from the war so that I wouldn’t have to live without a father.

Thank you for agreeing with the principal that I should participate in the Opportunity Room at La Cienega School. We go to performances of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Sadler Wells ballet and the San Francisco Opera when it visits Los Angeles. Our class takes trips to museums, art galleries, theatre performances and we went to Forest Lawn cemetery to see a replica of Leonardo di Vinci’s “Last Supper,” created in stained glass.

I was happy when you opened a florist shop simply called, “Harold Clamage Florist,” and I think it’s good for Mommy to work with you there every day. I hear you getting up early during the week to go to the flower market and you say you are enjoying your work.

Mommy says you like creating flower arrangements and personally delivering them to recipients. You take extra arrangements to the hospital and ask the nurses if there are patients who have not received flowers and you donate flowers to them. When a couple comes into the shop to plan flowers for their wedding and don’t have much money to spend, you don’t turn them away. You give them beautiful flower arrangements that fit into their budget. I am proud of you.

I love it when World War II comes up in conversations with guests and you only talk about the funny things that happened to you in the Army. You are once again able to make jokes about everything. You laugh when you tell the story that the Army gave you a new middle name - NONE - and now your official name is Harold NONE Clamage. You said it was the silliest thing that had ever happened to you. I didn’t understand why until you said, “Be sure to give your children middle names so that they don’t have to put down the word “NONE” on forms when asked for their middle names. I’ll remember that.

Daddy, you are once again my hero. The teacher told us today that a true hero is one who gains victory over hatred and anger. You are a true hero because you refuse to hate the Germans and refuse to remain angry over what was done to you. You answered the call, served your country, did your duty, and had the misfortune to be captured. You are grateful to have come home alive in one piece. After you heard from some of the men who had been prisoners of the Japanese, you were doubly grateful to have been captured by the Germans because you came home with all of your body parts intact and, although you were beaten, you were not tortured.

I was eating lunch in the courtyard at school and watching the PTA ladies pour out of the auditorium into the sunshine. They were dressed up with their hats and white gloves, and there you were – the only man in attendance – wearing a short-sleeved sport shirt and slacks. You had a big smile on your face. You were laughing and talking with the principal. I could see you really wanted to be there. Thank you, Daddy, for attending the PTA meeting. I don’t have to write letters to you anymore. I feel that I can talk with you now.

You are not the man who left home to go to war. You are the champ who came home and is no longer lost. I am grateful.


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