Family Album - 4

With this post, we mark the fourth installment of the "Family Album" series.  This was started far back in March of 2009, some six years ago now, with Family Album - 1.  Sometimes posts will stay dormant for months, years even.  Family Album -1 is one of those posts that suddenly came alive.  It is the primary reason I restarted this series.  I will do one more next month.  That will be the fifth and final installment of the Family Album series.  As most of you know, my activity on this blog is coming to an end after the 1000th post sometime in early April.  It will then be taken over by current staff and writers who will only occasionally post something of interest.  For the most part, the focus of this blog will be the guest posting of those on the topic of the paranormal/supernatural series.  More on the future of David's Musings later.

As I looked through a family album to post something on a particular person, I came across a man with one arm.  In the picture, he was standing between my father and grandfather (paternal).  He was a friend of my father as they served together in the U.S. Navy during WWII.  His name was Nathan Smokesky.  I know that is an odd name.  But, that is how it was spelled on the back of the picture.  Unlike my father, Nathan Smokesky saw plenty of action during WWII.  He was on a U.S. Navy Destroyer, USS Bristol, which was torpedoed by a German U-boat in October of 1943.  That marked the end of WWII for Nathan.  He had an arm blown off (his right arm, he was a lefty though) and somehow survived.  Fifty-two men were not so lucky.  Nathan was in and out of VA hospitals for 4 years after losing his arm.  He was told he suffered "combat fatigue" or, as we now know, Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome or PTSD as it is more commonly referred to now.  Nathan suffered with this for the rest of his life.  He was finally abandoned by his entire family after one of his more violent outbursts in 1952.  Nathan drifted in and out of homelessness.  He was finally taken in by my father before the latter part of December in 1953. 

He would go back and forth living with us and with my grandfather.  Sometimes he would stay with us for a few weeks.  Then he would go stay with my grandfather and my grandma for a couple of months.  He did seem to enjoy staying at my grandfather's place since my grandfather had a welding shop in the back of his house.  My grandfather taught him how to weld with one hand.  The reason he kept going back and forth between both places was due to his drinking problem.  My mother would get enough of it and off he went to my grandfather's house.  And on it went until about 1957 when Nathan finally got a good welding job and got an apartment of his own.  He seemed to be doing quite well as he was working lots of overtime and making a lot of money for that era ($300 a week and more with OT).   Unfortunately, the nightmares of war eventually caught back up with Nathan.  One sunny, Spring day in 1958, he jumped off a high-rise bridge, ending his tragic life.  Nathan had stopped going for treatment at the VA hospital for several months.  He felt he could cope with his nightmares by himself.

I can only vaguely remember Nathan as a small boy.  He made me a tin soldier which I still have on my fireplace mantel.  Nathan was very talented.  His was a sad life made sadder by the fact his family had given up on him.  He was a veteran of WWII, of the greatest generation who was unable to shake loose the demons of war.  I sometimes go to his grave to just lay a few flowers from time to time. I leave his grave thinking how sad life can truly be.  Here was a good man who simply could not recover from the horrors of WWII.


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