The Mentor’s Journey

July 20, 1944, Lexington, Virginia

Dear Allan,

You are not alone.  Stacy and I will be your family. Maybe, we can come and visit you in August. I have a special child psychology seminar in the first week of August. After that school doesn’t start again until after Labor Day.

Why didn’t you tell me you were an orphan? Don’t you have any other friends? Don’t you have a sweetheart, a girl friend? You played football.  Weren’t your team-mates your friends?  Tell me about your boyhood. When did you leave the orphanage? Where did you go to high school?.

Yes!! Stacy and I will come to visit you as soon as I finish the seminar.  Can you provide me with a telephone number?  I see that Oceanside is the nearest town to Camp Pendleton.

I’m going into the market to buy food and some other things.  I’ll mail this now so you will receive it as soon as possible.

Yours Truly Helen

* * *

July 24, 1944, Baker Company, 28th Regiment, 5th Division, Camp Pendleton, California

I just got your letter.  I won’t be here in August. The first two of our infantry regiments departed San Diego for Hawaii yesterday. They have been fully manned, but the 28th isn’t scheduled to depart until we’ve completely received a battalion of half- trained recruits from the reserve Sixth Division.  We’ll complete training in Hawaii. The 26th and 27th are almost up to snuff, but they’ll be called up if they’re needed to backup the Third Division on some assault that is still secret.

My Baker Company is fairly advanced in their training, but not quite ready for action. Hell! The other two regiments aren’t adequately prepared either! But if they’re needed they’ll be thrown in. God! I hate this war!!

With any luck, the whole division will complete training in Hawaii.

About my boyhood! Hell! I’m only twenty-five! And a captain in the marines! Like I told you, filling empty shoes. How many spinsters and widows will be left in the US when this is over? And orphans!

I started in the orphanage as an infant. I don’t recall any of that time.  I did primary school in the orphanage.  I lived in the orphanage until I finished the public high school. I loved books, especially history of all kinds. I got top grades in everything. I was awarded a scholarship to the University of Oregon in Eugene, the same town as the orphanage. Then along came Pearl Harbor and after completing my second year in college, I joined the Marine Corps.

I had dropped out of football. It was a team sport and I didn’t like the coach.  He was a bellower, the kind of mentor like the DIs, I detest. I went out for  the track team instead. I was a good, but not a great, miler. In the competition in track, you’re on your own, you’re alone. And I was a loner.

I guess being a loner is where this is leading. I never made any close friends. Partly because I was probably growing up in an orphanage. We’re social outsiders. At least it seemed that way to me.

In a university it is very easy to be a loner. They have dormitories and fraternities and other organizations. I stayed in the orphange and earned extra money helping out with the children.  Maybe that was the beginning of the mentoring dream. Anyway, Stephan found me an apt pupil.

I never had any girl friends, much less a sweetheart. Maybe, I was just shy, but I certainly never learned any social amenities. I guess the Marine Corps has taught me how to really care. But I still have to seal myself off. Or with all the bleeding and dying, I fear I would go mad.

Scary! Loving Stacy is safe. Being a God Father to her is safe. Now, I have the picture! She is a beautiful child.  And You are a beautiful mother.

Well, now it’s off to the war again.  You and Stacy have become my anchor. I pray I don’t bring more sorrow into your lives.

Yours Truly Allan

PS. I would really have loved to meet you and Stacy face-to-face. But this is a terrible war. I probably won’t be coming back. So, it probably will be better this way.

* * *

August 15, 1944, Lexington, Virginia

Dear Allan

I suppose you have arrived in Hawaii by now.  I bet you’ve finally found yourself a girlfriend among all of those beautiful hula-hula girls wearing grass skirts and colorful blouses. Don’t you dare!!

Oh, I so wished that we could visit you in California. Stacy’s face fell when I told her we wouldn’t be going to see her God Father. I’ve probably overdone the God Father thing.  You are a real living person to her now and she has seen your picture and wants to be with you. She begs, why can’t you come home.  I still read parts of your letter to her.  Not the heavy stuff we share.  When you next write, say something specially for her. Tell her about the hula-hula girls.  Write  directly to Stacy. She is becoming a little person, now. I tell her you are a very busy man, but maybe soon you will come to see her.

The war is coming to a close in Europe.  It’s awful, but we can anticipate it’s end. This damn war in Asia doesn’t seem to have an end. Oh God, they’re talking about a terrible blood bath when it comes time to invade Japan. Oh dear, I pray you won’t have to face that.

I read in the paper that you might have been sent to Guam from Hawaii.  Thank God, it didn’t happen.  But I suppose it won’t be long before your turn will come. Please, please tell us you’re okay. That you are still safe in Hawaii.  I’m sorry. You’ll think, I’m like a wailing female, like a hysterical wife!

Oh, well. I’ve already been there.  I’m strong.  I’m brave.

Yours Truly, Helen

 * * *

October 25, 1944, Baker Company, 28th Regiment, 5th Division, Camp Tarawa, Hawaii Island

Dear  Stacy

You’re getting to be a big girl now.  Two years old! I’m sorry I couldn’t be there to celebrate with you. To hug you and give  you a big, big kiss. I’m not being a very good God Father to you, but I’m very busy in a faraway place called Hawaii. It is a beautiful place, with palm trees and lots and lots of beautiful flowers. We are on an island. It is surrounded with deep blue sea and sandy beaches where you can wade in the water and play in the sand.  Maybe someday, I will be able to bring you here.  I miss you and please give your mother a big hug and a kiss for me.

Dear Helen,

The powers-that-be haven’t told us where they will be sending us, but we’re practicing with landing craft on pristine beaches.  So that’s a hint. I don’t think it will be long now.  I was ordered to an officers’ orientation meeting that was practically a three-day seminar. We were all mustang officers (Up through the ranks). They were briefing us on the protocols of talking to upper command, use of artillery, calling in aircraft support missions, etcetera. They showed us an aerial relief-map of an island, but weren’t ready to tell its name or where it lies. They labeled the map, detailing where our amtracks would close on the beaches. They didn’t say when, but it will be an assault by the whole division. The Fourth Division will also be landing with us. It’s going to be big, a major operation. There will be a large fleet shelling the beaches before we mount the assault. When it happens, the newspapers will be full of it. I suspect it will be very close to the Japanese home islands.

They also made us sign documents, assigning our death benefits.  I’ve named you as my beneficiary.

My marines are fully trained and ready. We will continue practicing landings and infantry tactics until the balloon goes up. It could be tomorrow or next month.

I also want to tell you, to confess to you; I have become truly aware of what it has been to be alone, a loner. I now know what not being alone could be.  I have not even spoken to you or taken your hand in mine. I sit here in the realization that the presence in my life of you and Stacy has surrounded me with love. Whatever happens to me in the near future, I will not be alone.

Allan Brady, Captain, USMC

* * *

November 27, 1944, Lexington, Virginia

Dearest Allan, 

Don’t you dare, ever, ever sign a letter to me “Allan Brady, Captain, USMC”.  It is too much like an epitaph on a tombstone. The only signature I will ever again tolerate is “All my Love, Allan”

Are you afraid to love me? You tell Stacy that you love her. Why not me?  I LOVE YOU! YOU TAKE THAT WITH YOU ON YOUR NEXT MISSION! KEEP IT CLOSE TO YOUR HEART! YOU WILL NOT DIE! NO! NO! NO! DON’T YOU DARE! YOU ARE NOT ALONE! I LOVE YOU!  HELEN

* * *

June 1948, University of Oregon, Eugene, Graduation Ceremony

A joyous audience crowded in front of the podium as the Valedictorian completed his address.  A woman and a small child entered the auditorium and found seats in the back row. The Dean of Students approached the microphone.

“Shortly Ladies and Gentlemen, we will begin the roll call of our graduates.  But first, I wish to recognize a special graduate, Allen T. Brady, Summa cum Laud. He began his studies here in 1939 and left us to serve in the Marine Corps in 1942. He spent a year-and-a-half in hospitals recovering from injuries acquired in the Battle of Iwo Jima.  His left leg had to be amputated. While there, he wrote a book titled, Those Who Did Not Return. He dedicated his work to Captain Stephan Lowe, a comrade who did not return. He eschewed the traditional cap and gown and insisted on wearing his uniform for this ceremony. “

“Captain Brady,” the Dean smiled, “will you please come forward.”

A man, clad in the uniform of a Marine Corps Captain, shuffled up the steps to the podium and stumped over to the speaker on his prosthesis and shook hands.

“Captain Brady has excelled in his studies here, and I understand has been accepted for post-graduate studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara.” He extended the diploma to Brady

The Dean gestured to the lectern, and Brady stepped up and leaned on it momentarily. He then held up the diploma and said, “I am grateful to this university for the skills I have acquired to articulate the terrible things I have seen and experienced.”

“I was not able to share in the celebration of our victory in the recent war. I was recovering in a hospital and relearning how to walk.”

“Nevertheless, in my studies and experience, I have learned a powerful lesson. There are no victors in war.” He paused.  “except perhaps the designers and makers of the machines of war.”

 “Victors?” again, he paused, “not our precious youth who lie beneath long rows of crosses in our national cemeteries, or are lost in the quagmires of beaches and battlefields.”

His eyes moved over his now silent audience.  “Not the empty hearts of widows, lonely spinsters, and fatherless orphans, who remain behind.”

He gestured down to his prosthetic leg.  “Not those whose bodies bear the wounds of war and especially, not those of us whose souls bear the terrible scars of war.”

“Perhaps, we should reexamine the nature of our humanity. We humans, who have received the gift of consciousness . . . of conscience.”

“I will dedicate my future endeavors to speak, to teach and to write about the conundrum.”

“Thank you all for your attention. I thank the University of Oregon for the guidance and mentoring, I have received.”

He made a stumbling turn to face the flags of the university, the state and the United States of America, slapped his leg self-consciously, and then threw his shoulders back and saluted.

He walked slowly to the steps down from the podium and descended awkwardly.

The audience remained silent.

* * *

Reaching the floor, he moved to the exit and departed. The woman and child waited until he left, and then stood and followed him at a distance.

Brady slowly walked toward the edge of the campus and entered his lodgings, a hotel-restaurant. Inside, he approached a corner table that had been regularly reserved for him during his tenure at the university. He ordered coffee.

The woman and the child entered and located Brady’s table. He was looking down at his coffee. She pulled up two unoccupied chairs and seated herself and the child.

“Hello, Allan. You have been very difficult to track down.”

He looked up in surprise and struggled to his feet.  “Helen!  Stacy!”

She said softly, “At first, I thought you had died on Iwo Jima. But the death benefit never arrived. And I decided you had survived the war. But, you had disappeared!” She paused.

He said nothing, staring at them.

“I was sure you would return here, but I called and they told me they had heard nothing from you.” She smiled tentatively.

Stacy stared wide-eyed at her God Father.

He spoke. “I was in the hospital, I lost a leg on Iwo and . . .” his voice trailed off.  He sat down again, rubbing an ugly scar running from the left of his forehead to the corner of his mouth.

Her eyes fastened on his. He couldn’t look away.

“Allan, we have a problem.”

She silenced and continued to hold his eyes.

He said nothing. Tears glistened in his eyes.  Hers were wet. Stacy looked up at her mother.

Helen continued,  “Are you ashamed of your disfigurement? Did you think it would repel me? Do you think so little of me?”

He looked down at his lap, slowly moving his head back and forth.

“Do you think so little of yourself?”  She queried. “Do you want to remain so terribly alone?”

He lifted his face and gazed into her eyes. His hand reached out and caressed Stacy’s cheek, and tears ran down his own.  “No! No, I don’t.”

“Allan. Please talk to me. Stephan taught you. You taught me. “

“Now, you and I have a problem to resolve.”

Robert Bruce Drynan
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