The Memoirs of Armand Charest Part III

Chapter 21

Armand Comes Home From the War…and His parting Words

We all returned from the war and settled down raising families. There was a big and warm welcome party for me. I had been gone for two long years. I still remember the voyage home in a big lumbering navy transport. We docked in San Francisco with a brass band on the pier and ladies from the Salvation Army handing out coffee and donuts. We proceeded to camp aboard a ferry through the bay with another big band on board. The first meal at midnight consisted of steak along with all the milk we could drink; it was the first taste of milk in two years! We traveled to Mass. in a special train to be discharged. Mine came on January 20, 1946. The war was really over.

Alphonse Charest died in January 1945; Emilie Charest followed him in October 1957. Some children of the next generation followed us into the service: Roger Forbes served in Germany; two of Theresa’s boys served in the Marines. My oldest son, Ronald, served in the navy for 22 years retiring as a Senior Chief, the top rank among enlisted personnel. A son-in-law Lazslo Fodor served in the army in Germany. The oldest of the nine Charest children died in 1994. At this time the remaining eight are still in relatively good health. Some of the grandchildren have married and are raising families of their own. And life goes on, one generation following another. I have placed our ancestors on a family tree, hoping that those who follow think of them once in a while.

In 1954 I met Miss Martha Wilkens in New York, the only child of hardworking German immigrants, at a dance in the local YMCA of all places. We had four great children and twenty years of a good marriage. I had moved to the New York area in early 1951 to search for work. I intended to pick up a few dollars and then to move on to Calif. As it turned out I stayed for 25 years.

I retired in 1987 and I then toured to country for four months. I saw beautiful scenery and then I met Joe the Greek. I had heard while overseas that a shadowy figure somewhere in the division had the moonshine (again) concession. He sold the stuff at $5.00 per gallon. Nobody really knew who he was. On my trip I happened to have been in Western Montana on Labor Day weekend. I noticed a sign in the local motel advertising the meeting of the 41 St Division survivors. I took what was possibly the last available room in town. As stepped out of my room I encountered an ex-soldier. You guessed it. It was Joe the Greek!!! We had many laughs during those few days. One night got drunk on liquor and old stories. I looked for men of E Company. None showed up. It was the final chapter and the last roundup.

It has been a generally good life for the Charest family. Tragedies have been few and far between. We were all blessed with good genes from Alphonse and Emilie. May the good times roll on for all of us!

Epilogue: 

It is now time to speak to my children, my grandchildren and all other beautiful children who will succeed them.

I end the Charest family history with a few thoughts for its descendants. You must become more civilized than the previous generations, as all generations should do. That means working for peace, striving for understanding between nations, cultures and religions. You must abolish wars. If you intend to live Christian lives, then live them m practice, not only in beliefs. No one has the right to take another’s life, not even the state. The real evils are ignorance, the absence of civil rights, the lack of educational opportunities, the abuse of the working class by employers and governments alike, a corrosive weapons-building industry that keeps the world in turmoil, that makes it possible for ambitious politicians to acquire those weapons at bargain rates to subvert and overthrow governments, thus preventing those same governments from devoting resources to benefit all their people. It is a sad thing to say but our own government is the world’s biggest weapon supplier.

Future generations must reverse that situation if they want to feel civilized. The Constitution must be preserved and strengthened, especially the First and 14th amendments. To deny rights to someone because others do no agree with. that someone is to run the risk of denying those rights to everyone at some time or other. My descendants should heed the words of a Roman poet by the name of Virgil who wrote in the First Century BC: “The majestic roll of circling centuries begins anew; justice returns with a new breed on men from heaven and the iron age shall cease, the golden age arise and wars will be no more.”

I wish all my descendants good health, good fortune and good lives!

Editors Note: Armand was still active and healthy until late August 2002. Then one morning he fell in the lobby of the senior citizens home where he was living in Costa Mesa, California. There was a subsequent series of cascading events, and a week later he suffered a stroke that left him paralyzed on his left side. He recovered somewhat, but was confined to a wheelchair and required constant medical care. His middle son Howard and Howard’s wife Pam, daughter Katie, took care of him in their home in Whittier, California for the next year.

Armand’s health continued to deteriorate during the year, and by September 2003 he needed to be in a nursing home with 24 hour care. During this year all of his children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren were able to come out for a visit. He lost his last battle and passed away the evening of February 14, 2004. He was buried as per his wishes in a Military Cemetery in Riverside, California, with full military honors. I received his flag.

Armand, at the age of 79, was only the second of the nine children of Alphonse and Emilie Charest to pass on.

Index:

Related Posts

Eyewitness to 1984, Part Two : Part two of a two-part story of Armand’s adventures visiting and performing relief work in Albania.
A Lifetime Of War : Reminiscing on the fact that the United States has been in at least one war during my entire lifetime.
It’s The Cows : A reflection on the real cause of global climate change.

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