Sunday, July 4, 2010

Uncle Bud

The Fourth of July serves as a reminder to me of those who fought for our independence and those who subsequently fought for this country. Thus, it seems like an appropriate time to tell you about my Uncle Bud. I never knew him, so the details are sketchy at best. I'm sure my brother who remembers more stories than I do and my aunt will fill in some of the details for me.

He was born February 8, 1925 in rural northeast Missouri. He died March 2, 1945 on Iwo Jima. I don't know a whole lot about what happened in between. I know he was the lone son and second oldest child of my grandparents in a family of four sisters. I know he was a farm boy. I hear he had a sense of humor. His full name was Edwin Earl Hickerson. I don't know the exact story about how the nickname "Bud" came about, but I think it had to do with one of his sister's not being able to say his name.

I know he, like me, liked the St. Louis Cardinals. My mother used to tell me that Dizzy Dean was his favorite player. My aunt has a different recollection of who his favorite player was. My assumption is maybe he had different favorite players at different stages of his life. Whatever the case, it's interesting to me how something like baseball can connect generations even if they never met each other. When I visit Busch Stadium and see Dizzy's name, I think of Uncle Bud.

I don't know much about his service to the country. I know that before he went to Iwo Jima, he was at Camp Pendleton. I don't know where else he might have served. Just a couple of years ago my brother, Mark, discovered via an online search that Uncle Bud was mentioned in a book called "Immortal Images" which was about the flag raising on Iwo Jima. We learned that he, along with four Marines, volunteered for a dangerous mission to scale Mt. Suribachi on February 22 while it was still under enemy control. These five men have the distinction of being the first patrol to scale Mt. Suribachi. My uncle survived that mission, but was killed eight days later on the island.

His death had a huge impact on his family, as you would expect. Certainly when his name came up over the years, he was remembered with fondness, but the sadness also seemed close to the surface.

My mom worked at the post office for years and I often would ride my bike with her in the evening to the PO to take down the flag that flew in front of the building. It was important that it come down every evening because the flag was not supposed to be flown at night unless it was illuminated. This one wasn't. It also had to come down at even a hint of rain because it's not supposed to get wet (unless it is made of weather-resistant material, which most are now.) She had the utmost respect for that flag and treated it accordingly. As I think about that, it occurs to me that the flag was essentially all that she had left Uncle Bud. The respect she showed to that flag seemed to be an extension of the respect and pride she had in her big brother.

That's about all I know, or think I know. If I had a time machine, I'd travel back to meet Uncle Bud and learn more about what he was like. Maybe talk a little baseball or something.

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