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Solemn pride in the heroism
November 7, 2007

The 11th hour, the 11th day, the 11th month—and silence.

The guns cease firing; hostilities end in the "war to end all wars."

One year later, U.S. President Woodrow Wilson proclaims Nov. 11 Armistice Day with these words, "To us in American, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country's service."

In 1954, President Dwight Eisenhower, himself a military hero, signs legislation declaring the date Veterans Day, a day to honor all American veterans of all wars, both those who perished in battle and those who survived to receive our heartfelt thanks.

Rise early this Sunday morning to raise the Stars and Strips, and then find a veteran and say, "Thank you" whichever the war and whatever the job.

When we think of the heroes of World War II we often think of men storming the beaches of Normandy or struggling in the steamy jungles of the Pacific. They are, indeed, our heroes. But heroes come in many places, both at home and overseas, and with many faces, both men and women.

Enough for Brock
Take the young girl in Bethlehem, Pa., who sat transfixed and horrified by the voices streaming from the family radio one Sunday afternoon in December—Dec. 7, 1941. Pearl Harbor Day.

Pauline Smith Brock once told me about that experience. (Stirring up memories, Dec. 1, 2004.)

In the following months, like all Americans, she continued to listen to the news and consume the newspapers following the progress of the war.

Finally, in 1944, that was not enough for young Pauline. By then she lived and worked in Michigan. When two of her friends disappeared and then reappeared in uniforms as WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service), that was enough for her. It was the Navy for Pauline.

After training in the Bronx, N.Y., Pauline moved to Washington, D.C., where she served in the Bureau of Medicine and Surgery with the critical job of keeping up with the medical records of our fighting sailors.

Some American stories keep coming true whether it's war time or peace time. Pauline met the boy next door. He wasn't much of a boy, though. He was a war-toughened Marine and a native of Decatur County, Ga.

As a young man, Gus Brock joined the Marines. After completing his enlistment, he went to work in Brooklyn. When war broke out, like many veterans, Gus re-upped and joined the Marines again.

He served in the Pacific and was at Guadalcanal. He contracted malaria and recuperated in Australia. Once he was well, he was posted to Washington—where romance blossomed. He and Pauline married on May 19, 1945.

At war's close Pauline received a happy assignment. She worked in the Navy Separation and Discharge Section. Gus took his bride back to Brooklyn where she continued in the Navy for a while.

The couple soon became a larger family when young Dale and then Barbara joined them in Brooklyn. In 1951, life in the city became a bit much, and Gus took Pauline home again, but this time to Decatur County.

Adjusting to small town living after life in the nation's capital and then the bustle of New York was a bit hard, Pauline admits. But soon after the move, the family joined St. John's Episcopal Church, where Pauline became very active. She still is.

She also kept busy at work. She worked at Southern Airways for a while. She then commuted to Thomasville where she earned her LPN. She worked at the State Hospital in Bainbridge for 13 years before she retired.

Retiring didn't mean that Pauline slowed down. She just turned her energy to her church where is she busy all the time. Church dinner, Supper Club, Altar Guild? Don't worry. Pauline will be there.

I asked Pauline if she had a favorite Navy meal. Apparently, lots more was going on in Pauline's life than food. She said she really doesn't remember except that there was lots of bean soup.

Since Pauline was in D.C., maybe Navy cooks made the same soup they were cooking up over in the U.S. Senate. After all, it's made with navy beans! We've seen this one before in this space, but how can you get enough of this good soup?

Senate Bean Soup
2 pounds dried navy beans
four quarts hot water
1½ pounds smoked ham hocks
2 tablespoons butter
1 chopped onion
salt and pepper to taste

Wash the navy beans and run hot water through them until they are slightly whitened. Place beans into a pot with hot water. Add ham hocks and simmer approximately three hours in a covered pot, stirring occasionally. Remove the ham hocks and set aside to cool. Dice the meat and return it to the soup. Lightly brown the onion in the butter. Add to the soup. Before serving, bring to a boil and season with salt and pepper. It's good with corn bread or corn muffins.

Whether they were at home or overseas, young or old, all those who served in World War II (as ever) looked forward to care packages. When my mom got a little extra butter and sugar she didn't make her two little girls a special treat. No, she got out the big red mixing bowl and whipped these up for her two brothers, Jack, a gunner on a B-24 stationed in Italy, and Brown who was doing meteorology in North Africa. Here's the recipe as she had it copied on a slip of paper in her favorite cookbook. The paper is sugar-sprinkled and, I suspect, tear-stained. Don't write recipes that will make you sad in washable ink. I've shared this one before as well, but I never get tired of these cookies.

Hunks of Heaven
½ cup butter
½ cup confectioner's sugar
2¼ cups flour
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
¾ cup chopped pecans

Cream the butter and sugar and gradually add the sifted flour and salt. Work in the vanilla and nuts.

Chill and roll into balls about 1 inch in diameter. Place on a slightly greased cookie sheet and bake 14 to 17 minutes in a 400° oven until delicately brown. Roll in confectioner's sugar; let cool and then roll in sugar again.


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Trilla Pando is a member of the Southern Foodways Alliance & the Story Circle Network