HE STARES up at me, a five-o-clock shadow, tilted head and eyes showing the commitment, intensity and silent compassion he carried through life.
And though the photo of Sgt. Jake Guydish at a Walterboro Air Force Base in South Carolina is 70 years old, he speaks to me.
‚??I just looked at the camera and snapped this one. Silly, Eh? I know, I need a shave.‚?Ě
Dad was a shutterbug during the war, recording his experiences as he traveled from U.S. base to U.S. base, then across Africa and into Italy, a mechanic one step behind the lines, keeping the Army Air Force aloft.
I digitized his photos this year, and while the images were often compelling, it was the words on the backs that brought them palpable life 11 years after his death.
January 1942, Jefferson Barracks, Missouri, a double exposure of dad sweeping a porch: ‚??Here‚??s one Levan took. Two pictures of me without turning the film. One guy said it looks like my conscience in the background.‚?Ě
April 1942, Meridian, Miss., a car zipping by: ‚??Here‚??s a picture of a girl who was riding up the road nice and slow, but there was no light on her face & of course it didn‚??t come out at all. Taken in Meridian. She was pretty, too.‚?Ě
May 1942, Columbia, S.C., a black youth steers a horse-drawn cart, a sign on the wagon partially visible: ‚??The sign said: Mr. Henderson, Please don‚??t ration hay!‚?Ě
The comments paint ‚??The Greatest Generation‚?Ě in human terms: ‚??Thompson. He‚??s the Clark Gable‚?Ě ‚?Ľ ‚??John Fish. He quit Rutgers U. to join the army.‚?Ě ‚?Ľ ‚??Manuel Gonzales. He‚??s a bum soldier but he‚??s a pretty swell guy.‚?Ě ‚?Ľ ‚??Hamil. Rochester N.Y. He was a Packard salesman‚?Ě ‚?Ľ ‚??Joseph Eastwood, Lowell, Mass. He‚??s as English as could be almost, for an American‚?Ě ‚?Ľ‚??R.L. Gillies, my right-hand man. My number-one boy. Best stock chaser in the outfit‚?Ě ‚?Ľ ‚??‚??Heavy‚?? Feinstein, our sloppy mess Sgt.‚?Ě
They show the cost of war: blown bridges, soldiers posing before houses with facades turned to rubble. They show the victims: An Italian woman carrying a stack of wood, twice as long as she is tall, balanced on her head; an Italian ‚??beach bum‚?Ě grinning through silver beard.
U.S. soldiers joke around in German uniforms, pose by tiny Italian Fiats that look like circus clown cars next to beefy Yanks and, most strikingly, find something to smile about in the midst of a world war.
And they show the planes Dad helped to keep running: ‚??Sad Sack,‚?Ě ‚??Talking For Joe,‚?Ě ‚??Bottom‚??s up,‚?Ě ‚??Droopy Dogs,‚?Ě ‚??Lil Bea Hind,‚?Ě ‚??Who Cares,‚?Ě ‚??Early Bird,‚?Ě ‚??Little Stardust,‚?Ě ‚??Ready, Willing and Able,‚?Ě ‚??Available Jones.‚?Ě
Dad served 17 months abroad before a piece of shrapnel tore into his left arm during an air raid in May 1944 that took away full use of his left hand for life.
I thought of the pictures after attending this year‚??s Wyoming Valley Veterans Day Parade, the one parade I try to see every year anymore. My wife and I admit to tearing up a little as troops march by. ‚??They‚??re young and brave,‚?Ě she said. ‚??And they could be put in danger any day.‚?Ě
I thank you all, past and present.
And I thank you, Dad.
Mark Guydish is a reporter for The Times Leader. He can be reached via email, at [email protected], or by calling 829-7161.