"God Bless, and Save America"
Heart Warming Stories of the WW II Canteen Volunteers
by Scott D. Trostel
Writing has taught me there is a story behind each story. I thought I would share a few.
A lady in Streator, Illinois, who worked at a track side canteen there during WW II shared the best story. One day she handed a sack lunch to a soldier on a passing train on the Santa Fe Railroad. On that bag she had written her name. A few days later she received a letter from the stranger in uniform, who took that lunch from her hand. The two corresponded throughout the war. When he came back, he looked that young lady up, and they eventually married.
The lady who influenced the feeding of about twelve million soldiers passing through Ohio during WW II, was widowed just eleven months after she started the canteen at Bellefontaine. She had seven children at home, yet every day she made a sincere effort to help thousands of total strangers in addition to her home duties. One son jointed the Navy during the war. Family and friends stepped in to help her with family duties.
At Troy, Ohio, one of the canteen girls’ family had suffered a significant tragedy, their home burned and everything was lost. Offered a small home that required much work to make it ready for occupancy, she and other siblings slept outside for a time. When a train would come in during the night, she slipped out from under the blankets, walked to the nearby canteen and helped to get baskets and bags ready and meet the trains.
Mothers, who had sons in the war worked at every canteen. One mother came weekly to help at another canteen. When the Prisoner of War trains stopped, she helped to make the thousand sandwiches that would be given to those Germans and Italians who were American captives. She never refused to feed enemy combatants . . . even though her own son was held captive in a German POW camp. It was on Christmas Eve 1944, when one of the crewmen who escaped capture two months before, showed up at the door of that family and gave them the news that the son who they had known was missing for almost three months, was alive and held as a POW. What a marvelous Christmas gift!
At yet another canteen, a teenage volunteer was working one terrible day when her parents showed up, having just gotten the worst news, their son, the volunteer’s brother, had been Killed In Action. After but a short absence, she came back and helped feed thousands more troops before the war ended.
At Lima, a soldier showed up at the canteen one very cold and snowy day, having hitch-hiked from a base in Florida toward his home in Michigan. That last trip home was that important to him. Numb with cold and having trouble walking, canteen volunteers took him in, fed him and took up a collection, buying him a train ticket to his home. They just hoped their sons, nephews and neighbors were being treated with equal respect.
At Marion, Ohio, on a gray Christmas Day afternoon, a troop train pulled in and the ladies passed out Christmas bags with gifts of food and sundry items. One soldier on the train had a trumpet and broke it out to offer a musical expression of gratitude. His selection was, "White Christmas." As he played the sweet melodies, hundreds of men on the platform followed in song, and at that very moment from the gray clouds, a gentle snow began to fall. Many who witnessed that moment broke into tears of joy.
Read more about these profound home front gestures to support our troops in WW II, CLICK HERE to purchase books about the free servicemen's canteens
Read letters from the soldiers CLICK HERE.
© Copyright 2005, 2006 Scott D. Trostel
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