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Our Stories Best Survive Us in Writing

“I wish I’d have listened more,” my co-worker said, referring to her father’s oral stories about his military service during World War II. She knows he was married and had a 6-month-old son at the time he was drafted. He served for several — three? four? — years. She wishes she knew more. My father, too, served in World War II. Four months before he died (I didn’t know that at the time, of course), I asked him about his service and wrote down what he said: When he went to take the Army entrance exam in 1944 at age 24, it was the first time he left his home county. During the four months he was in basic training at Camp Gordon, Georgia, he bought a pint of ice cream from the PX every evening.