I'm emotional right now anyway, but I've been crying during the last forty pages of the non-fiction book I just read. It's taken me several months to finish this book, "Foot Soldier: A Combat Infantryman's War in Europe" by Roscoe C. Blunt, Jr., not for any particular reason other than I just wanted to read it slowly, and I don't think I could have taken it in one fast sitting anyway. There's too much pain there to absorb any faster.
There's a huge difference between WWII fiction an WWII memoirs. No matter how grave and grim the fiction is, it just fails to convey the same reality that the memoirs do. This book had me in tears a lot, sometimes just in frustration and impotence that I can't do anything to change what happened. I thought often of the B-17 navigator I spoke with for a good hour at the Palm Springs Air Museum, how the gruesome stories he told me have that same candidness as the tales in this book. The WWII veterans who do choose to share what happened to them do so with chilling bluntness. No whitewashing, no gloss. Man's ability to abuse his fellow man is unbounded. The moments of kindness and comfort stand out almost as surreal, even when the givers are punished by death.
The last forty pages were arrival in Germany and seeing his first concentration camp through the push towards Berlin, victory, waiting to go home, and finally... home. The author's final journey simply to get home again had me crying the most.
We really do not quite appreciate what we have, and what could be taken away so easily.