This is my Pappy – Jack Volkert. From September 1940 until September 1941, he served in the U.S. Army Coastal Artillery, a Reserve unit formed to protect the Eastern seaboard from invasion.
A couple of months after he left the Reserves, Pearl Harbor was bombed. In January of 1942, he re-enlisted without a second thought. He served with distinction until 13 August, 1945.
While in the Army, he participated in the campaigns of Algeria-French Morocco [8-11 Nov 1942], Tunisia [12 Nov 1942-13 May 1943], Naples-Foggia [18 Aug 1943-21 Jan 1944], Rome-Arno [22 Jan-9 Sept 1944], Rhineland [15 Sep 1944-25 Jan 1945], and Central Europe [22 Mar-11 May 1945].
He never weighed more than 130 lbs, but he drove a heavy truck and worked a water-cooled .50 caliber machine gun. Before the war, he was an accomplished amateur boxer. He was a marksman and a warrior.
He received a Good Conduct Medal, the American Defense Service Medal, European-African-Middle Eastern Service Medal with 1 Silver Star, 1 Bronze Star, and 1 Bronze arrowhead. He was never wounded, despite making numerous amphibious landings and being involved in some intense fighting at El Alamein and Sicily.
In the service of his country, he served in Africa and Europe for nearly three years. He never went home; he fought hard; he saw a lot of friends die; and he came home. When you watch a movie like Band of Brothers or Saving Private Ryan – yeah, my Pap was one of those guys.
When my mom was very small, my Pappy married Ruth Frey, my Grammy. She had three children [Forrest, Ellen and Eileen, my mom], by her first husband, who died in a car accident. They bought a house on Apple Blossom Road in Easton, Pennsylvania and settled in to raise their blended family long before it was known by that name. Along the way, they had another child, Jackie.
Over the years, he provided for his family through hard work, perseverance and a bit of stubborness. If he was firm, it was because he was strong.
My Pappy is one tough dude.
He turned 90 this past summer. He has had a stroke, among a number of other physical ailments. This week, my Gram had to make the hard decision to put him in an elder care home. She simply could not handle his physical needs anymore.
My mom helps when she can. My Uncle Forrest and Aunt Ellen have passed away; and my Aunt Jackie lives down south. My sisters, my cousins and I are scattered all over the country and we wait patiently for news.
My Pappy is a genuine American hero. It is hard to think of him in a hospital bed. It’s hard for me to think of him as anything but the man I knew growing up.
If you think of it, pray for my Pappy.
He’s a good man, but he never really had any patience for religion or church. He knows what it means to love unconditionally, but I can’t say whether he knows what it means to receive Christ’s love unconditionally.
[Today, I call my Pappy by the more mature nomenclature of Pap V but he will always be Pappy to me.]