Making It Home: Journey Home

The following is a guest post by VHP Liaison Specialist Owen Rogers, and is the second in a three-part series.

Veterans view the Statue of Liberty from aboard the troop carrier U.S.S. Marine Fox.  George Arthur Reiss Collection, AFC/2001/001/42923.

Veterans view the Statue of Liberty from aboard the troop carrier U.S.S. Marine Fox. George Arthur Reiss Collection, AFC/2001/001/42923.

Trying to make it…

Home. A permanent fixture in our lives, “home” has both place and meaning, and many veterans meticulously documented their journey home through photographs, manuscripts and correspondence. Numbering among the “transplant” community in Washington, D.C., I find this facet of military service particularly resonant. In contrast to a simple car ride or quick flight home, protracted tours of duty and the long wait for the war’s end curtailed countless family gatherings. Through the century-long perspective of the Library of Congress Veterans History Project (VHP), veterans’ narratives link homesickness to the human experience of war.

Gleaned from veterans’ images and prose, the narratives collected here speak to the anxiety, apprehension and, at times, the tragedy of veterans’ homecoming.

In 1943, Samuel Lionel Boylston was drafted into the U.S. Army Air Force. Stationed in the South Pacific, far from his South Carolina homestead, he found that correspondence provided a creative outlet, as well as a link to stateside friends and family. By September 1945, peace was restored in both Europe and the Pacific; however, millions of deployed G.I.s awaited berthing assignments. In the queue of a competitive “points system,” Boylston writes:

Nagy will be leaving or begin his stateside journey about Sunday. I guess he will be a happy fellow. Duke and I will probably go next month or November at the latest. I hope there is plenty of transportation by that time.

By December 1945, Boylston landed in San Francisco. Fortunately, he had an early taste of home, courtesy of a dining car chef who also hailed from the Palmetto State. After nearly three years of Army rations and palm trees, steak and French fries signaled a return to family, friends and civilian life.

Samuel Boylston envelope

“I Have Returned!” December 24, 1945. Samuel Lionel Boylston Collection, AFC/2001/001/1848.

For Korean War veteran Jose Mares, however, a Thanksgiving meal signaled three years of captivity. His long journey home began on November 24, 1950, when a North Korean ambush killed soldiers seated at either side of him. After five days of combat, Mares was captured, tortured and nearly executed. In contrast to the frequent exchange among Boylston and his parents, Mares’ VHP collection includes a series of telegram updates from the Department of the Army.  Then in August 1954, there was a telegram from Mares, himself!

Dearest parents, your prayers for me have been answered. Feeling better now. I’m free. Nothing wrong with me that getting home won’t cure. On way home by boat. God bless you all. Joe.

Telegram from Jose Mares to his parents announcing his imminent arrival. August, 1953. Jose Mares Collection. AFC/2001/001/6059.

Telegram from Jose Mares to his parents announcing his imminent arrival. August, 1953. Jose Mares Collection. AFC/2001/001/6059.

Despite his horrific experiences, Mares remained in the military until 1970, and retired as a Master Sergeant with more than 20 years of military service, as well as a family of his own.

Think about a time that you overcame seemingly insurmountable odds to make it home to family and friends. Share that memory in the comments section below.

Did images from this post resonate with you? Please post wherever you share compelling information–Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Instagram or Pinterest–using the hashtag #VHPatHome.

Join us next week for the final installment of VHP’s “Making It Home” series. Go here to read part one, and share your story.

 

Happy Birthday, National Guard! And, VHP Researcher Spotlight

Thanks to VHP researcher Larry Minear for his input on this blog post. Happy 378th birthday to the National Guard! On December 13th, 1636, a colony-wide militia was established in Massachusetts, the precursor to the modern National Guard. Much like their colonial counterparts, the majority of today’s Guard members hold civilian jobs in addition to […]

A New Piece of History: Alan Lomax’s Lost Notes From Haiti

There’s been a new discovery and new research into Alan Lomax’s fieldwork in the 1930s! On the John W. Kluge Center’s blog Insights, Antony Stewart, British Research Council Fellow at The Kluge Center, describes a notebook recently discovered by AFC’s Alan Lomax curator, Todd Harvey.  The notebook was used by Lomax during his 1936-1937 field […]

Pearl Harbor: As Experienced by Those Who Were There and Some Who Were Not

December 7, 2014 will mark 73 years since the infamous attack by the Japanese on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Americans far and wide felt the collective trauma of the attack, which led to the United States’ entry into World War II. President Franklin D. Roosevelt called it, “a date which will live in infamy.” He was […]

Submit Your Día De Los Muertos and Halloween Photos! #FolklifeHalloween2014

  If you’ve just subscribed to our blog, or missed some of our previous posts, let me fill you in on one of the American Folklife Center’s projects: we’re collecting 2014 photos of Halloween, Día de los Muertos, and other holidays that fall at the turn of October to November.  Although we collected hundreds of photos […]

Corsican Language and Expressive Culture

This guest blog post is by Alexandra Jaffe, who will be speaking on this topic at noon on December 2, 2014 in the Montpelier Room, 6th floor, James Madison Building, Library of Congress as part of the American Folklife Center’s Benjamin Botkin Lecture Series. Jaffe is a professor of Anthropology at California State University, Long Beach […]

Omaha Hethu’shka Society Songs and Dances

Historically, the Omaha Indian Hethu’shka Society were a group of highly respected men, voted into the group by unanimous consent of the society, who aimed to set a strong example for their people of the best attributes of a warrior. Although traditionally deeds in combat were the central test for inclusion in the society, such […]

American Indian and Alaskan Native Veterans Served Proudly Too

When talking about United States military veterans, there is a group that often gets overlooked–that of American Indian and Alaskan Natives. In fact, growing up, I don’t recall learning too much at all in school about their rich history and culture. Their story would only be a small part of the chapters on Christopher Columbus, […]