War Bonds: Love Stories from the Greatest Generation

War Bonds: Love Stories from the Greatest Generation

by Cindy Hval

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781612002903
Publisher: Casemate Publishers
Publication date: 02/19/2015
Pages: 216
Sales rank: 816,461
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Cindy Hval is columnist and correspondent for the Spokesman Review newspaper in Spokane, Washington. Her “Front Porch” column offers humorous, often poignant commentary about life, love and raising sons– not necessarily in that order.

In addition, her stories have been published in numerous magazines and anthologies including seven volumes of the Chicken Soup For the Soul series.

Cindy is the mother of four sons ages 25 to 15 and is owned by two cats, also boys. She and her husband, Derek, recently celebrated their 28th anniversary. Surprisingly, she actually finds cooking for her busy family relaxing. Daily walks provide inspiration and much needed quiet time.
Her idea of heaven is a room full of books and all the time in the world to read them.

Read an Excerpt

War Bonds

Love Stories from the Greatest Generation


By Cindy Hval

OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA

Copyright © 2014 Cindy Hval
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4804-8156-5



CHAPTER 1

Band of Gold


There's a Star Spangled Banner Waving Somewhere — PAUL ROBERTS & SHELBY DARNELL, 1942


The thin gold ring on Jerry Gleesing's finger isn't flashy, but he wouldn't trade it for a diamond-studded platinum band. It's rested on that finger since his bride, Nancy, placed it there on June 1, 1944.

It hadn't been easy to win her hand, or even get her to glance his way. In 1940, Jerry heard a new girl had moved to his hometown of LaMoure, North Dakota, and he kept his eyes peeled. There wasn't much excitement in the small town, so the arrival of a young lady was big news. Jerry first spotted her on his way to the ballpark on a Sunday afternoon. Her dark hair and dimples captivated him.

"I was 15," Gleesing recalled. "Quite a bit older than she—I was born in August, Nancy in September." Alas, his status of older man by a month failed to impress the new girl. "She didn't even speak to me for the first six months," he said, shaking his head. "She was a lot smarter than I thought she was." But Jerry was smitten and persistent. By their senior year, they were an "item." Nancy recalled their first date with a smile. "He brought me violets."

In fact, one of their dates became legendary at their small school. "We skipped school one day and had our pictures taken," Nancy said. "We got caught." As a result, when the entire school went on a field trip, Jerry and Nancy were the only two left behind. They didn't mind. Years later at a high school reunion, the day Nancy and Jerry skipped school was still a hot topic.

In 1942, Jerry, 18, enlisted in the Army Air Force and left for basic training. Though she missed him, Nancy shrugged and said, "I knew it was something he had to do." While he went through basic training and then on to flight school, she joined the Army Nurses Corps and served for six months.

"We got married when I got my wings," Jerry recalled. They used his two-week leave for a honeymoon. Soon their first child was on the way. While the war raged in Europe, the couple took comfort in dreaming about their baby. They were sure it would be a son. "We were having Michael," Nancy said, as she remembered that time.

All too quickly, Jerry received orders to deploy to Italy as a flight officer with the15th Air Force, 459th Bomb Group. He had to leave his wife and unborn child behind. "It was hard," Nancy admitted. Those three words can't begin to convey the sadness she felt when she kissed him goodbye.

In Europe, things didn't go well for her husband. On Jan. 15, 1945, Jerry said, "I was shot down on my second mission. We nursed the plane along until we got to Hungary." He and his crew had to bail out. Jerry laughed, describing the novelty of his situation. "We never learned how to bail out, just how to fly the plane!"

He got out of his chute and ran for the trees. "I just had a few seconds to decide how I was going to elude capture." That wasn't enough time. Within minutes he and his crew were surrounded by locals armed with pickaxes and shovels. "I thought they were going to kill us," he said. But instead they quickly handed the captives over to the Germans.

Jerry will never forget that first night of captivity. "They lined us up on one side of the courtyard. Five German soldiers with guns stood opposite—you didn't know whether they were going to use those guns." He paused and cleared his throat before continuing the story. "I did pray. I prayed for Michael," he said referring to his unborn child.

Meanwhile, back in North Dakota, Nancy grew worried. "The letters stopped on January 5," she said. For 10 days there was no word. Then a telegram arrived, reporting Jerry as missing in action. She prepared for their child's birth, not knowing her husband's fate.

Jerry had been taken to a prison camp, and as he was being processed, the guard pointed to his wedding ring and motioned for Jerry to remove it. But after days of uncertainty and fear, that was where Jerry drew the line. "You get to the point where the initial fear is gone," he said. "Whatever happens, happens. I didn't give up my wedding ring. I said, 'I vowed to never take it off. I'm not taking it off.'" The guard stared at him and motioned again for the ring. Jerry simply shook his head. "They let me keep it," he said.

In February 1945 Nancy gave birth to a daughter. "Turns out it wasn't Michael, it was Mary Jean," she said, smiling. In those days babies were taken from their mothers and cared for in the hospital nursery. "I guess I did a little bit of crying," Nancy admitted. The doctor admonished the nurses, "Don't you read the newspaper? Her husband is MIA. You give her that baby any time she wants." So Nancy cuddled her daughter and whispered to her about her brave and handsome father. She promised her baby that Daddy would be home soon.

After three and a half months as a prisoner of war, Jerry's camp at Mooseburg, Germany was liberated. "We saw the tanks come over the hill," he recalled. "Everyone was whooping and hollering. Then the American flag was raised, and it was dead silent." His voice broke. "It was like coming home." And come home he did, just in time to celebrate their first wedding anniversary. He was asked if he'd like to continue his military service. "They asked me if I wanted to stay in or get out. It took half a second to say 'out,'" he recalled. So instead, he used the GI Bill and graduated from North Dakota State University. He taught agricultural education at a local high school for several years. Then he moved on to a career with a commercial agriculture firm.

Jerry and Nancy raised seven children and were active in their local Catholic parish. Yet the Gleesings would be the first to tell you the course of their true love has had its share ofturbulence. As they talked about their six decades together, they debated details, times and places. "We argue a lot for some reason," Jerry said. And across the room Nancy stuck her tongue out at him.

But though they may squabble, the vows they took all those years ago hold firm. "There's something about a commitment," said Jerry. He looked down at his left hand. The sun glinted off the narrow gold band. "It's still there," he said. "I've never taken it off."

Jerry Gleesing died April 25, 2010. Nancy now wears his ring on a chain around her neck.

CHAPTER 2

Lady In Waiting


You're No Angel — FRANCIS E. TUCHET, 1942


Donna Stafford first saw her future husband, Milt, in the summer of 1942. As she and her two aunts walked down the sidewalk, they saw a tall, skinny young man walking toward them. "I should have known what I was getting into because he was walking with a .22 slung over his shoulders," she recalled. Shaking her head, she sighed. "I used to hate the months of October and November because he was always gone hunting."

But hunting was the last thing on her mind that sunny afternoon. And once Milt spotted her, hunting was the last thing on his mind, too. "I told my friend, 'I just got to find out who she is—she's a nice looking chick,'" he said, with a chuckle.

Soon after that fateful sidewalk sighting, family members formally introduced Milt and Donna. It didn't take long until the two were spending most of their free time together—seeing movies or hiking through the nearby woods around beautiful Lake Coeur d'Alene.

Milt had dropped out of school to work at the Atlas Mill and as World War II heated up, his boss asked for a 30-day deferment for the hard working young man. When that one expired, he asked for another deferment. But in January 1943, Milt told his boss, "I gotta go sooner or later, so I might as well go, now." He then found himself and 90 other young men from the area boarding a train, intent on letting the Army make soldiers out of loggers, miners and farm kids. After basic training in Utah, Milt discovered to his dismay that he was the only fellow from that group to be sent to Fort Sill, Oklahoma.

On July 4, the kid who'd never set foot outside of Idaho landed in Africa. He missed Donna. He missed his Mom and he missed the pine-shrouded lakes of home. Tucked inside his barracks bag was a picture of the girl he'd left behind. Milt said, "My buddy, Willard, asked, 'Who's that?' I told him, 'That's the girl I'm going to marry.'"

Willard shook his head. "She's too good looking for you. She'll never wait for you!"

He didn't have much time to worry about whether or not Donna would wait for him. Milt and his unit were on the move, traveling to Tunisia with the Third Army, Third Division, under the leadership of General George S. Patton. There, they prepared for the invasion of Sicily. "It was my first round of combat," he said. "The first time I saw dead soldiers." He paused, swallowed hard and looked out the window. "I saw a lot of stuff I didn't want to see."

He described that initial foray into combat as "hell on wheels." The confusion of the nighttime invasion, the shrieking of the shells and the cries of the wounded made a lasting impression. "It scared the hell out of us," he said. "I knew I was in trouble." The problem was that the Germans had taken the high ground and could see the soldiers advancing. "They were always shooting down on us!"

From Sicily they battled through Italy. And Milt made a new friend along the way, a dog they named Pinochle. "That dog could tell when the Germans were going to fire an artillery shell," Milt recalled. "She'd run into a foxhole and sure enough, shells would land near us or explode over us." The men quickly learned to follow Pinochle's lead.

But Pinochle wasn't around one afternoon in 1944. Milt had ended up on cooking duty when their cook went AWOL. "He stole an officer's jeep," Milt recalled. "We never did find him. For all I know he's still driving around Italy. I told them I'd taken home ec in high school and that was my downfall. I ended up cooking all the way through Italy."

While he was talking to the first sergeant in the cook tent, the Germans fired a smoke shell over them. Milt told the sergeant they were about to be under artillery fire. There was no time to take cover, and minutes later the sergeant was dead. The blast picked Milt up and tossed him through the air. A friend ran over, grabbed him and pulled him into a foxhole.

He spent two days in the field hospital recovering from wounds to his back, which had been torn up by shrapnel. "Some colonel came in and said, 'Can you move your toes?' And like a fool I said, yeah. 'Good,' he said, 'you can go back to the front.'" And back to the front he went. His duffle bag and its contents had been torn to pieces, but one thing remained undamaged: his picture of Donna.

Pinochle wasn't the only Italian friend Milt made. One afternoon a little girl, probably three or four, wandered into their camp. "Her parents had been killed by the Germans and she came to the camp begging for food," Milt said. The locals said she had no family, so Milt and his buddy Willard "adopted" her. They fed her, clothed her and when the shelling started (which it did most every day) they made sure she was in the foxhole with them. They never knew her name.

The Third Division was headed to the Italian Alps when the war ended, and while Milt would have liked to see Switzerland, he said, "I'd seen all of Italy I wanted." When they reached Milan, Milt took the little girl to the US Embassy, having heard that she might have family in the area. Parting with her proved wrenching. Seventy years later, while looking at pictures of the girl, he covered his face with his hands and tears rolled down his cheeks.

"I never saw her again," he said. "But I think about her every day. I wonder did she find a family? Is she alive?"

Though he worried about the girl, he also couldn't wait to get home. "I had enough points to get out, but my name didn't come up for some reason," he said with a shrug. "I wasn't happy, but the Army doesn't care if you're happy."

Letters from Donna kept his spirits up until finally, in November 1945, Milt made it home—but not before he said another sad goodbye. He'd hoped to take Pinochle with him, but the dog wasn't allowed to board the ship. A little girl had been playing with Pinochle while Milt tried to get the dog on board. When he realized his quest was in vain, he gave the little girl Pinochle's lead. She beamed and hugged both Milt and the dog, and he felt confident that his furry friend had found a good home.

After surviving a horrific storm in the Atlantic and a snowstorm in Montana, a bus finally dropped the exhausted soldier off in his hometown. At 3 am, he walked to his mother's house and let himself in through the unlocked door. Hungry like always, he had made his way to the kitchen when he heard his mother yell, "Who is that?"

Milt hollered back, "It's me, Ma. I finally got home!"

While under fire and frightened for his life, Milt said he prayed to God to live, and prayed to see his Mama again. He said, "I must have prayed to see my mom at least 15 times, but she never showed up!" That middle-of-the-night kitchen reunion was a celebration for both of them.

You would think that after arriving home at last, the young soldier would have had his sweetheart on his mind, but all Milt could think about was hunting. "My uncle promised me if I got back before hunting season was over, he'd take me to Priest Lake," Milt said. Then he shrugged. "I made it back two days before the season closed."

After his hunting excursion, he and Donna were reunited, but their courtship was tumultuous. They got engaged, but soon broke up. "It was my fault," Milt admits. Donna said he was possessive and resented her independence. When he constantly questioned her comings and goings, she said, "I told him to forget it and broke up with him."

The break up didn't last long. They worked out their differences and on March 10, 1948 they were married at the Hitching Post, a local wedding chapel. Not long after, Willard came to visit them. Milt introduced him to Donna and exulted, "Well, here she is, you old SOB!" Willard laughed and congratulated him.

Milt returned to his job at the Atlas Mill, earning 32 cents an hour. He worked there for 43 years before retiring. On his meager income, they bought a car, rented an apartment and settled into married life. Or tried to. "I was still hunting and fishing every weekend," said Milt.

"It took a long time to cure him," Donna said.

Soon, their first daughter was born, followed seven years later by another. Having his own daughters soothed some of the sadness Milt felt about the little girl he'd left in Italy.

In addition to outdoor activities, Milt was an avid baseball player and for many years played catcher and first base for the Coeur d'Alene Lake-siders club. "We had a hell of a team," he said. His wife grew to love the game, too. After they retired they traveled to the Baseball Hall of Fame. "I was more excited than he was," Donna said, smiling.

Donna worked at City Hall for a time and eventually became a member of the "if-you-can't-beat-'em-join-'em" club. "I finally learned to like fishing," she said. "In fact, I loved it." For many years the couple had a lakefront cabin. "He'd get in the boat and be gone for hours," Donna recalled. "I thought if I ever want to see him, I'd better find out what this fishing stuff is all about. Then I was the one who didn't want to quit. And sometimes I out-fished him!"

"She didn't out-fish me too many times, I'll tell you that!" Milt interrupted.

For 66 years the Staffords have worked out their differences with grit and a healthy dose of humor. "I wanted to buy her a rifle," Milt said. "She told me, 'You'd be the first thing I shot with it!'" He paused and grinned. "So I didn't buy it."

His wife smiled, too. "I guess I could be ornery, every once in a while."

Milt freely admits his husbandly skills were lacking at times. "I had some stupid ways about me. She had a lot of opportunity to tell me to hit the road, but thank God, she didn't."


(Continues...)

Excerpted from War Bonds by Cindy Hval. Copyright © 2014 Cindy Hval. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgements
Introduction

One: Band of Gold
Two: Lady in Waiting
Three: The Luck of the Draw
Four: Have a Little Faith
Five: Footloose, Fancy Free and Fun
Six: Dishpan Hands
Seven: From Sailor to Preacher
Eight: Damn Yankee
Nine: Globe Trotters
Ten: Little Things Add Up to Love
Eleven: Pearl Harbor Survivors
Twelve: Brothers and Their Brides
Thirteen: A Seat Next to You
Fourteen: Hard to Say Goodbye
Fifteen: She Still Wears the Pants
Sixteen: The Farmer’s Wife
Seventeen: Pin Curls and All
Eighteen: Letters From Home
Nineteen: Bicycle Built for Two
Twenty: Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You
Twenty-One: Happy Trails
Twenty-Two: Peg O’ My Heart
Twenty-Three: I’ve Got Your Number
Twenty-Four: The Short Drive Home
Twenty-Five: Preacher’s Boy and Farmer’s Daughter
Twenty-Six: The Pilot and the WAVE
Twenty-Seven: Laughing Through the Years
Twenty-Eight: Keeping Time
Twenty-Nine: Second Look Was All It Took
Thirty: The Marine and the Sailor
Thirty-One: So Nice to Come Home to
Thirty-Two: Sharing the Ride
Thirty-Three: First Kiss
Thirty-Four: Fireworks
Thirty-Five: Wings of Gold
Thirty-Six: Romance on Wheels

Afterword

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War Bonds: Love Stories from the Greatest Generation 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Loved being an observer to their stories
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Would of liked to have more in depth stories pertaining to their war experiences. Enjoyed learning about their struggles and how they overcame them, how their marriages seem to stand the test of time.
Feathered_Quill1 More than 1 year ago
War Bonds is a refreshing change from most of the anthologies of today. The love stories of the couples featured in this book have stood the test of time , under the most difficult situations, leaving the reader spellbound. These stories, called War Bonds: Love Stories from the Greatest Generation, brought to the fore by Cindy Hval, are true stories of how some extremely brave and loving couples, who were married at the onset of World War II, will help us to remember the lives of our parents or grandparents during that time when you never knew whether this would be the last time you ever saw some of your loved ones. The author tells the stories of thirty-six couples in the Northwest part of our country, relating real difficult moments in battle that took place during the marriages and the fact that none of the couples ever gave up, sticking to the vows that they made to their spouses during these difficult times. Each story was told with both humor and joy and sometimes sadness, telling of each couples’ situations and their personal times together. The writer of this wonderful book, Cindy Hval, wrote many articles in a series of features about couples who met and married during World War II. Her stories covered couples who met before the war started, during the war and some after the war was over. Making the decision to put these articles together in one book was an astute decision. Readers will be delighted to read these stories, whether they know people from that era or not. The most impressive things about all these stories are that the folks stayed together through thick and thin. There are not a lot of folks from the Greatest Generation still with us, but these stories are so full of the lives of these folks in these stories, it will make us all remember their love and determination to their homes and each other. Quill says: This is a wonderful history lesson for us.
lv2readJT More than 1 year ago
Beautiful stories, beautiful photos! Absolutely love the history of the endurance of a marriage through these difficult times. Thank you!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If you are a history buff , enjoy true stories , and a romantic at heart this book is for you!! It is a wonderful read!!!~ Sheryl Ann Brown
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Wonderful, beautiful love stories told in an endearing and engaging style.  Perfect for anyone interested about WWII and true love!