The following is a list of what my mother's brother carried with him, after basic training in Florida, after South Carolina, Virginia, Ohio, Alaska, and Wisconsin, prior to heading off to Okinawa:
June 21, 1945
RECEIVING SHIP BARRACKS, TREASURE ISLAND, CALIFORNIA
MINIMUM OUTFIT REQUIRED FOR ENLISTED PRESONNEL BEING TRANSFERED OVERSEAS
BELT, BLACK 1 SHIRTS, CHAMBRAY 3
BELT, BLEACHED 1 UNDERSHIRTS, LIGHT 4
CAPS, WATCH 1 DRAWERS, LIGHT OR MED 4
HATS,WHITE 3 HANDKERCHEIFS 12
JUMPER, BLUE DRESS 1 TOWELS 2
JUMPER, BLUE UNDRESS 1 SOCKS, BLACK PR. 6
JUMPER, WHITE 2 SOCKS, WOOLEN PR. 6
TROUSERS, BLUE 1 SHOES, BLACK PR. 2
TROUSERS, WHITE 3 PEA COAT OR RAIN COAT 1
TROUSERS, DUNGAREE 3 NECKERCHIEF 1
BLANKETS, PR 1 LEGINS, PR. 1
MATTRESS 1 BLACKING OUTFIT 1
MATTRESS COVER 2 TOOTH BRUSH 1
HAMMOCK, COMPLETE 1 COMB, HAIR 1
SEA BAG 1 JACK-KNIFE 1
What she has left from the list is one woolen blanket with his last name stamped on it in black. When we were growing up and playing "Army", we were allowed to use my Dad's helmet but the blanket was kept on a high shelf. We didn't know the pieces of the story until we were grown and I'm still finding them out. We just knew as kids, there was a sadness about the blanket, something that scratched and itched, but wasn't spoken about. When my grandmother died, we went to her house in Brooklyn where Matt had been raised. I cleaned one closet in her bedroom, finding at the back a 48 star American flag that my mother said I could have, me not knowing at the time the significance.
Looking back, this began an obsession with collecting American flags, years later incorporating them into my artwork and photography, as well as hanging them on walls, in windows, on my front porch. Tomorrow, December 18th is Matt's birthday. I know my mother will go to Mass because it is Sunday, but she will be thinking of him. Her last child, my youngest brother, was born on the same day and will be turning 50. My youngest son was born on December 16th and my daughter's middle son was born on December 19th, so we're getting together as a family in the evening.
This year I'm going to celebrate my mother's brother's birth as well, for I'm beginning to grasp how often we hold onto the day someone died rather than the life they lived, however short. I just have to figure out a way to do it that doesn't upset the children, especially the one named Matthew. Especially since I found out yesterday half of his father's battalion will be going to Afghanistan, and you never know with the military what will happen, or when. God bless all.