Growing up during World War II, I developed a deep, enduring love for America and its values. In school we were taught about its many heroes: Nathan Hale, Patrick Henry, Mary Ludwig, better known as Molly Pitcher, and so many more.
In the little village of Bureau Junction, in north central Illinois, nearly every train that passed through had to stop and fill up with coal and water. Now and then some child would run up the street announcing loudly, “Troop train’s coming!” We would all stop whatever we were doing and run as fast as we could to the depot platform to greet the train full of soldiers. We children loved to talk to the young men who would be hanging out of the train windows. Occasionally, one would hand us a dime or a quarter to run into Welch’s Drug store to get them a candy bar. We always ran as fast as we could to get back before the train left. As the train pulled away with the soldiers still hanging out of the windows, we would stand and wave until the train disappeared around the bend.
I would wonder where they would be sent, probably some awful sounding place. Iwo Jima. Saipan. Anzio. The beaches of Normandy. Guam. Guadalcanal. So many came home broken. Too many never came back at all. Those who did return did their best to build a better life for their children and grandchildren.
Since my third great-grandfather served under General Washington at Valley Forge, I have had many family members who have served our country including four brothers: John Cook, who was a prisoner of War in World War II; Floyd Cook, who died of heat stroke in basic training near the end of World War II; Roger Cook, who served in the U.S. Navy during the Korean War; and Francis “Fritz” Cook, who served in peacetime, and my son, Jeff Brown, who was a U.S. Marine during peacetime.
I have a great respect for all veterans and those who are now serving in uniform. If it were possible, I would thank every one of them personally, but this is the best that I can do. From the bottom of my heart ... Thank you.
Peggy Cook Brown
West Jordan, Utah