Glen Alum, West Virginia was so far up in the mountains it did not appear on the map, but World War II came to Glen Alum. In 1942 the draft board was formed and they began to draft young men from our area for World War II. My husband, Otis was drafted shortly after our daughter’s birth. However, he was a new father, had two other small children and was given an exemption. J.C. (James Clarence) the second from the youngest brother was drafted and spent his entire enlisted time on the front lines. He served under General Patton. J.C. was in the middle of the hot battles but was unharmed. He spoke of dead bodies falling around him. He felt it was a miracle he survived. He stayed on the front line until the day the war was over. In 1946 Mama Susie took ill and passed away, and J.C. was not allowed to return home to visit her when she became ill nor for her funeral. He loved his mother and not seeing her before she died and then not allowed to attend her funeral nearly destroyed him.
J.C. saved a fellow soldier by carrying him to safety on his back, and he could not understand why he survived. He received three medals for his military service. Although, he survived the war, his life was ruined. He aged about 20 years during the four years he fought for our country. His hair was pure white when he returned home. He was 25 years old, the second youngest son, but looked like he was the oldest. He became an alcoholic and never married or had any children. Otis told me not to think negatively or be hard on J.C. because of his alcoholism. He said, “J.C. has seen things no man should see and that the alcohol gave him some relief from his horrible memories. There was no mental health provided for the returning soldiers.
We loved J.C. and forgave him for any inadequacies. The war had sucked out his youth and his spirit. Although he lived to his 80’s, only a shell of the man he had been was left, and we mourned for him. In his later years he hocked his medals for liquor and I often wondered what sort of person would buy another man’s medals and pretend he earned them. J.C. rarely talked about the war, but I imagined some stranger wearing J.C.’s medals and telling tall tales about the war.
The baby boy, Richard Lee was also drafted and served until an injury caused his knee to give out, and he was sent home. After his return, Richard married Virginia and they had ten children together. My sister-in-law, Bernice’s son, Rozell Pool was drafted into the Navy and served his time on a ship until the war was over. He was the captain’s cook. They did not allow black men on the ships to fight. However, he survived many attacks and completed his service. Little Wesley (Martha & Henry’s son) also served in the Navy during WWII. He became a career sailor after the war ended. He completed 30 years of military service and retired honorably. The men in our family served our country well during WWII.
Author: J. Keel