At 24, he was an old man, and that was fine as he was a sergeant. With age comes authority. And he had used that age, most famously to ignore the order of the captain who had instructed him to put gas maks on the mules not the men.
Not that he told many stories about the out the war once it was over. The gas mask story only came out when the captain came by his home, long after the war, and he had had his wife send the captain away. He had to tell her why, he, the genial lover of humanity, hated the man so much.
There had of course been a war. The pictures showed him posed with young men and an even younger boy on a blasted landscape. France, we were told, but for us it looked more like something brought to you by Warner Brothers pictures. There was the occasional memento, the almost obligatory 75 mm shell turned into a vase for flowers–the sword beaten into the plowshare.
But the stories that he did tell made the war sound like an endless lark fueled by potato sandwiches and doughnuts, particularly the free doughnuts offered by the Salvation Army. Another organization, we were told, had CHARGED the boys for a doughnut and coffee but the Salvation Army had given them for free.
Such was his gratitude for what “the Army”, the other army, had done for him that my grandmother would organize fund drives for the Salvation Army years later. The priest was not sympathetic, threatening her with excommunication until (it was rumored) her sister-in-law–who by all rights should at least be beatified–had what was surely a very spiritual chat with the bishop. Excommunication was not mentioned again, and the fund drivers continued.
So when you run on Dunkin today and get your free doughnut. (In memory of my grandfather it would be yeast glazed, to be eaten precisely with a knife and fork, preferably at a counter). Or you kruise by Krispy Kreme to get a freebie, or load up on the bourbon butterscotch brioche with bacon, remember that National Doughnut Day isn’t here to celebrate the stomach, but rather the heart. Show some heart and consider dropping what you would have spent on your stomach into the red kettle. Thank you.