Friday, November 11, 2011

Veterans Day Salute: Uncle Jack

I posted the picture above on Facebook today in honor of Veterans Day.  It’s my dad’s brother, Lt. John Thomas Morrissey, and the picture was taken around 1950.  My first memories of Uncle Jack go back to around 1955, when I was six years old, and I remember being given my first VERY fast ride in a car in Uncle Jack’s brand new Buick. It was a black sedan with those “portholes” in the side, a huge swath of chrome along the side, with bright red accent paint alongside the chrome.  Uncle Jack called that car “the red-winged blackbird”.  He told me it probably wouldn’t be a good idea to talk about our high-speed jaunt, and that we should just keep it between us.  I did.  Until now.

It was a “company car” – issued by Liggett and Myers, the tobacco company Uncle Jack worked for when he came home from serving in the Army.  He took a job as a route salesman for L&M Cigarettes.  He never talked about his experiences in the Army.  My dad, who saw plenty of combat in the waning days of the war in Europe in ’44 and ‘45, and then served in the Army of Occupation in Japan, never said much about his experiences, either.  If you asked dad about what Uncle Jack did in the Army, he’d only say “Uncle Jack was a spy”. 

In my grandparents’ bedroom in the huge family homestead in Oshkosh there was a large, framed charcoal drawing of Uncle Jack.  It was top-notch quality, and the specifics I can remember were that the drawing had Jack’s name, the name of the artist who did it, and it said “Fort Holabird, Maryland” with a date.  I wish I knew what happened to that charcoal drawing.  I wish I had it.

When you asked my grandpa about what Uncle Jack did in the Army, all he’d say was “he was with the Counter-Intelligence Corps”.  The CIC is the forerunner to the CIA.  I also know that Uncle Jack could speak and read Japanese, and that in his home were many beautiful pieces of art from Japan.  He said he learned to speak Japanese in the Army, and that yes, he had spent some time in Japan.

I’ll let you draw your own conclusions about what Uncle Jack did in the Army, and if your imagination is like mine, I’ll bet you guess he did some pretty interesting things, which he simply could never talk about.

That’s the thing about those guys that served in combat and who did “undercover” work for the military.  They don’t talk much about it, except perhaps when they’re with their peers.

So, here’s a Veterans Day salute to my late Uncle Jack, and to all the other men and women who have served in the armed forces of our nation.  Thank you, all of you.  A lot.

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