At Rest, Soldier: Emmett Lee, b. 1925 d. 2014 “

DADANDSERVICERECORD

89th Birthday, with Service Record, including his “colleagues” FDR, MacArthur, et. al

You lie down, take your pill You turn over, Fart at Will

You lie down, take your pill
You turn over, Fart at Will

armymomanddad

Love, Marriage and WWII

Note: My father, Emmett Lee, died July 1, 2014, a month following this original Memorial Day letter to President Obama, only days before the rapid decline that ended his life. As a Veteran’s Day celebration of his pride in service and love of country,  I’ve reposted.  He leaves a dwindling league of  WWII Veterans, now forever free from the tyranny of suffering, illness and old age. At his deathbed, holding his wrist to feel his defiant pulse as he lay unresponsive,  I repeated the mantra “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” The words became a calming prayer, for me, an only child losing her last parent. I hope it was, somehow, an encouragement for him to unleash his gentle spirit from his battered body. And to rest at last, in heavenly peace.    

“In these days of difficulty, we Americans everywhere must and shall choose the path of social justice, the path of faith, the path of hope, and the path of love toward our fellow man.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt       

To: Barak Obama, President and Commander-in-Chief
The United States of America 

Dear Mr. President:

         With no political agenda beyond the spirit of Veteran’s Day, I write to salute one American veteran, 89-year-old Emmett Lloyd Lee. An avid, yet self-described “inept” WWII soldier, his 70 years of post-war public service embodies Roosevelt’s call to “choose the path of social justice, faith, hope and love toward all.”

         As Mr. Lee’s only child, I’m compelled to write what he would consider a highly presumptuous intrusion on your time.

         Yet time waits for no one. Old soldiers die. My father fades away. “I don’t need an occupational therapist, I need a death therapist,” he says, of home health care visits.

         Blinded by his dimming light that guided me through life, I speak of his inimitable character, honesty and selflessness. So rare in our increasingly self-absorbed society, his life story should be known and celebrated, though he would not agree.

         Knowing your unfailing sense of comedic timing, I trust that you’ll enjoy my father’s lifelong humor, worthy of a proposed Reality Show;  BEDPANS & DEADPANS – (working title-his idea)

         AMERICAN DIOGENES

         “Emmett’s so honest it makes me puke,” said Gerald, his pre-deceased (not so honest) brother. As Emmett joined the army, Gerald joined the circus, followed by a stellar career as journalist and alcoholic. “He thinks he’s Diogenes – Athens’s one honest man.”

         ARMY INDUCTION

June, 1943: Emmett Lee, 18 years old, eagerly reports to Selective Service in Hayneville, Ala., where he miserably fails the eyesight test, and is rejected. Undeterred, he procures a standardized eye chart, and through coke-bottle lens glasses, memorizes, down to the minuscule lines, unreadable even for 20/20’s.

         July, 1943: Emmett, sans glasses, gropes his way back for another try. In anxious anticipation, with racing heart, he aces the eye exam, only to be diagnosed with a heart murmur. Rejected yet again.

         July, 1943: Desperate, in a rare moment of questionable honesty, Emmett procures a “nerve pill” from Aunt Mattie’s medicine drawer and returns, for a third effort. Sedated, with eyesight memorization intact, he is accepted. Eureka. God Bless America.

         ACTIVE DUTY

         1943 -1945 After extended stateside service, Emmett marries Frances Bass, my mother, and ships out to the Philippines the next day.

         * A note on Mom, born 1923 Died 2012, his wife of 68 years

         During Dad’s deployment, Mom served our country in Panama City, Florida’s shipyards, as Head of the Blueprint Department.

         “Rosie the Riveter, are you kidding? I’d never seen a blueprint in my life,” she always said.

         “It was her strapless blue print sundress, not her blueprint expertise that landed the job,” Dad added, still jealous 60 years later.        

         Meanwhile, back in the Philippines, Dad fights a foe more daunting than the Axis Powers – his own ineptitude.

         “I was a terrible soldier,” he says. “I couldn’t learn manly things, like tying knots. Marching uphill, I kept hearing ‘plunk, plunk,’ behind me. At the top, I realized every single item had fallen out of my backpack and rolled downhill, to the amusement of my fellow troops.

         Unsurprisingly, firearms were not his forte.

         “We practiced pounding a rifle butt on enemy targets. I didn’t know to use the sharp edge, so I pummeled away with the flat part and broke my whole gun in two. It was payday, and I felt undeserving of my $20 a month, with an limp, impotent rifle,” he says.

         Lacking a G.I.’s gruff demeanor, he was berated while guarding Japanese prisoners, providing not only food, but also cherished extras.

         “Hey Buddy, you giving cigarettes to Japs?” says a fellow soldier.

         “Do you have to be American to want a smoke?” Dad thinks, but remains silent.

         HOMEWARD BOUND

         Aboard ship heading home, he rips his wife’s letters into tiny pieces and flings them into the Pacific Ocean.

         “Wouldn’t somebody (me) maybe want to read them?” I ask.

“Good Lord, NO,” he says. “Too racy.” I suspect a kiss qualifies in his definition of racy, but photos of their reunion suggest more active duty on the home front.      

         POST WAR SERVICE

         More suited to civilian life, my father settles into teaching History, while Mother teaches English, both in public schools. Pursuing advanced degrees, Dad climbs to Assistant Superintendent- Mom a guidance and rehabilitation counselor.

         I’m having a Bullet Point Moment here, Mr. President. Dad’s civilian service is so vast, so Ben Franklinesque, I fear that you will nod off if I don’t condense and highlight immediately.

* As city councilman during the 90’s, Dad proposed a 50 percent pay cut for himself and fellow Forest Park, GA officials as a good faith gesture to the local citizenry. It’s a rare American politician who values good will over a dollar bill. (By unanimous (minus one) vote, the proposal failed.)

* He donates $50 every day to a staggering number of charities, ranging from the Red Cross and CARE to Adopt a Humpback Whale that he has yet to meet, but affectionately calls “Old Moby.” Dad’s personal contributions could significantly put a dent in the national debt

* And yet, he deducts a pittance of his charitable giving, and is “honored” to pay exponentially more taxes than required.

* He refuses to collect Social Security, though he paid into it, claiming he has “too much money,” and doesn’t want to dip into benefits of future generations.

* Frugal to a fault, he purchases only Gorton’s Frozen Fish Sticks, green grapes and Preparation H. He treasures, though resists, buying rubber bands, socks and underwear, using a paper clip to re-size his ancient boxer shorts. His 25-year-old pants that nicely fit his former 200-pound physique are now tattered trousers that slide down his 144 pounds. Often, he holds them up by the crotch, qualifying him as the ‘Lil Wayne of the Geriatric Set.

* Post-Mortem Note: He would be horrified that I selected a Hugo Boss suit, white dress shirt with French Cuffs and yellow silk  tie for his burial, spending more on his death attire than his last 20 years of daily clothing.  

* He obsessively supports the U.S. Post Office, panics when low on stamps, or mail isn’t delivered. Can’t fathom “saving a stamp,” and has no clue what “going online” means. “Does the Internet talk?” he recently asked me.

* Personally delivered Meals on Wheels, with his small grandchildren in tow for years, yet was informed that, though homebound, he doesn’t “qualify” to receive them.

* A partial list of service organizations that he has served as president/chairman/board member/lifetime achiever/ etc., include:    

* American Legion, American Cancer Society, American Heart Society, The Red Cross, National Library Board, Mentor, Clayton County School school children in need; Community Service Board Chairman, Retired Teachers Association, Parent Teacher Association. Kiwanis. P.T.A. Council on Aging and more. Received Keys to the City and Emmett Lee Day proclaimed by Mayor Matt Simons for outstanding civic service.

         *  In bipartisan spirit, I must inform you that Emmett Lee was named “Democrat of the Year” by the State Democratic Party of Georgia, in 1975.

         I could go on, but you get the idea. He follows the tradition of our American family, dating back to Joseph Hill, b. 1709 in Virginia, that includes veterans of the American Revolution, The Civil War, WWI and WWII. 

         My father’s “double first cousin” (it’s a Southern thing, but not incestuous) Thomas Hinman Moorer served as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from 1970 to 1974, and Chief of Naval Operations from 1967 to 1970. Joshua Hill, U.S. senator and Union sympathizer, is said to have convinced General W.T. Sherman to spare the town of Madison, Ga. during his highly inflammatory March to the Sea.

          Skeletons also rattle this family tree, including suicides, scoundrels, bums and criminals.

         But my father, humble to a fault, has only kind words for all, avoids conflict and complaints, even when warranted. 

         Last month, firemen burst into his apartment at 3 a.m., dragged and dumped him on cold pavement, resulting in a spine fracture, trauma and memory loss that led to his death. 

         For this false alarm, unreported by him, he was promptly billed, and paid, $75 for fatal “medical treatment,” with no complaint.  In constant pain, nearly immobile and “nuts” as he says, he must now move to “The Booby Hatch,” as he calls Assisted Living, or leave this thing called “L.I.F.E.”

Post-Mortem Note: (He avoided the 5,000 per month out of pocket cost without veterans or government assistance, which he neither expects nor wants. But his medical care, which I found patronizing, deplorable and cruel, before I threw a fit in the hallway floor, screaming at inept, maddening personnel, cost nearly $1 million.

“All I want to take with me is my Armed Service Record, (taped on his wall) and my clock,” he says. “I would take my wedding ring and Betty Grable’s autograph, but I think I might have thrown them overboard.”

         If you’re still reading, Mr. President, bless you. I’m know you’re inundated, I’m in hopes that this might prove that at least one man upheld the values of  our country 

         Emmett L. Lee c/o Georgia Lee, daughter

2401 Waterford Cove

         Decatur, Ga. 30033

         Cell Phone: 404-274-9030 (Laid off two days after Dad’s injury, I have no work number at present. Sorry.)

         Seriously Mr. President, please accept our undying admiration and support as you continue to “choose justice, faith, hope and love toward our fellow (Americans,) in days of difficulty.”

         I leave you with the words that I wrote to my father, in our devastation following my Mother’s death.

“Never, never, never give up.” – Winston Churchill

Respectfully,

Georgia Lee

p.s. My father’s words, while I helped put him to bed in his last nights at hone: 

“I take my orders I take my pill

I turn over in bed and Fart at Will

“Who is Will?” He asks, as he falls into sleep, perchance to dream…

"Selfie" Dad and Me, April, 2014

SELFIE – GEORGIA AND EMMETT LEE – APRIL, 2014

        

 

About georgialeesays

Award-winning journalist, editor and writer of multiple genres. Former Bureau Chief, Womens Wear Daily and W magazine. Past director, Ivy Hall, The SCAD Atlanta writing center. Vice President, programming for Atlanta Writers Club. Freelance writer/editor of every subject in the known universe. Lover of clean, clear writing -"It is my ambition to say in ten sentences what others say in a whole book." - Nietzsche. I teach yoga, meditation, in retreat settings. Seeker of truth and transcendence. Reincarnation of Edgar Allen Poe. "Life is but a dream within a dream within a dream" Write. Create. Learn. Dance. Yoga. Sleep. Dream.
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14 Responses to At Rest, Soldier: Emmett Lee, b. 1925 d. 2014 “

  1. Reblogged this on georgialeesays and commented:

    Update: Barak Obama has received my post. Waiting for his visit

    Like

  2. Ray Muse says:

    Georgia, I recall your father with a great fondness, and wish you both well.I am saddened to hear of his failing health, and pray for his revival. He has been a great publick servant – yes, “publick”, as in the days of Washington, Jefferson, Hamilton and others who served not out of desire for personal gain, but more to the detriment of their personal estate and for the benefit of those who are served. His ever-ready smile and genuine care for others has always been the first thing one notices about Emmett and will be his long-lived legacy – along with his beautiful and brilliant daughter, of whom I am sure he is proud many times over.

    I remember the school system your dad helped to build and only wish the same system today was half of what it was in “his time.” I remember actually being taught and knowing that learning was going on while we were in school, and was thankful that my own children received the benefits of a school system that allowed them to seek success with knowledge. I also remember a system where discipline held the system together, though sometimes to my chagrin, as your father’s friend Mr. McQueen remembers almost as well as I do, his having been a vice principal at the time I first came into his domain. It was a system that helped to create better students and better citizens, and I thank him for his service in causing this to be our reality “in the day.”

    His willingness to serve in so many capacities and desire to be a fundamental part of so many organizations only stands to show his true worth as one who would not stop in his efforts to provide hope to all. I never recognized at the time just how many of our fellow students belonged to families of public servants such as your own; nor could I realize how many would go on from our class to become such respected and revered servants as so many have done. We were truly blessed people in a blessed time. This could only have been possible in a community where people such as your father helped to ensure the confidence in a better future and faith that people do make the difference toward that future.

    If I may:

    Emmett Lee
    “A man who serves to the peoples’ need
    Who gives himself, absent of greed,
    And humbly belies of failing worth
    While giving all to better the earth.
    His service great abroad and home
    His tenure quiet, his name unknown,
    His enduring impact quietly bestowed
    On those who travel a better road.”

    -you can attribute this to myself as tribute to a wonderful man whose acquaintance I will always treasure.

    A “terrible soldier?” – not in the war that truly counts the most! A truly exemplary soldier in every way!

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  3. Ray, Your words move be to tears. Your message came just at the time dad has been taken to the Emory Emergency room I’m desperately trying to get an emergency flight home from NYC. I will read this to dad & post to FACEBOOK, (with your permission) And know that I will never never never forget this moment. Your thoughts will sustain me, and I’m stunned and grateful for your having writing them. – Keep us in your thoughts and prayers.
    Thank you!
    – Georgia

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  4. Ray Muse says:

    Georgia, I pray for his recovery and a safe, speedy journey for you. You will both remain in our prayers as your father continues his fight.

    Like

  5. They don’t make them like this anymore. Your Dad is a true national treasure. You honor him well. Loved reading this piece.

    Like

  6. Teresa Parker says:

    I knew he was special I told you earlier I always remember him making me laugh, but reading your story just amazes me. We take our parents for granted just thinking they go through the motions of being our parents without really getting to know who they are. Very touched by your knowledge of your dad (and mom) and as you I love them both very much. So very happy we have been able to be back in touch after all these years. Much love for you both.

    Like

  7. Linda Spier says:

    Georgia,
    I just had a chance to read your post. With just this small glimpse into your father’s life, I can sense what a great legacy he has left behind. His work, his ethics and his dreams surely live on. I hope you continue to share with the world what a great man he was and how his very large heart left it’s imprint on so many lives!!!!
    LInda

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  8. Ed and Linda says:

    Georgia…”YOU” are your father’s daughter! Great prose for a great man!

    Like

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