I love writing about my family. They are crazy, quirky, and I have relatives named Aunt Pat, Uncle Buck, and a Great-Grandpa named Cletus, need I say more. I consider myself the memory keeper of the family. I decided too late that I needed to start writing down my family’s stories. I, fortunately, had writen down a few of my grandpa’s stories before he passed.
Now I feel the need to write them down before my memory fades. Grandma died almost 15 years ago and papaw passed about six years ago. I’ve been writing them down in my journal, my mom lovingly calls my starship log.
Here is another Shorty from the family Sturgell:
Grandpa, Tom, was a man of purpose. He knew his priorities and stuck to them. When he was 17, he lied about his age to get into the army, making country his number one priority. (This was a tall tale because I found his enlistment date and he would have solidly been 18.) I’m not sure if he enlisted or was drafted, or if enlistment and the draft were the same thing in the time of war. His army papers say, “Enlistment for the duration of the War or other emergency, plus six months, subject to the discretion of the President or otherwise according to law.” He transferred several times when the opportunity arose to different parts of the army, finally settling on the paratroopers.
It hit me the other day, my grandpa was a badass. I wouldn’t have jumped out of a perfectly good airplane. And he did some sort of tests on the airplanes. I think he said he did their preflight preparations.
Fortunately for me, unfortunately for him, he was honorable discharged on 6 Mar 1945 because he had gotten hurt.
It was the last practice jump Tom was to make before he was to be sent to Europe to fight in the war effort. He readied his parachute and steeled his nerves. The open door howled from the force of the wind. Without too much though, Tom jumps. After a few seconds he pulls the ripcord and the parachute jerks him upward. Hovering above the void, Tom hangs in between firmament and ground. The ground grows bigger, Tom prepares himself to land. Just before he hits the ground a gust of wind pulls him sideways. He hits the ground hard, a sharp pain in his foot makes him wonder if he’s broken it. For a short moment he sees stars, the pain is intense.
I don’t know what happened at this point. I should have asked Grandpa, but I took him and his story for granted. I don’t know if he hobbled back somewhere, because he totally would have done something like that because he was a badass (the man had a heart attack in his sixties, for God’s sake, and didn’t tell anyone!) or if the medics saw what was going on and ran to assist with a gurney. What I do know is that he landed on “Strawberry Hill” (his words).
Grandpa spent six months in the hospital with “squashed liters.” He described his foot as having bent up to touch his shin. I suspect he pulled and ripped tendons. At any rate he didn’t go over to the Aragon Forest where he said that there was 60% casualties in his troop because they dropped them too close to enemy lines.