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A Father’s Thoughts on the Importance of a Uniform

By Andrew Carroll
1/29/2009 • HistoryNet, World War II War Letters

After surviving combat in the Battle of the Bulge, Fee was struck by a land mine fragment while in the Rhineland. The War Department notified Fee’s parents via telegram that their son had been “slightly wounded” on March 7, 1945. Fee actually had been seriously injured on the sixth, and had gone 14 hours before being treated. On the eighth, he sent a V-Mail, handwritten by a Red Cross worker, to his father:

Dear Pop,
I’ve been injured and am now in the hospital. I can’t describe my injuries but take my word for it I’ll be O.K. My care has been wonderful all the way through….
The worst is over and I’m pretty comfortable now. Tell mother not to worry or start imagining things because I honestly do feel pretty good now. I’ll write for myself in a couple of days. Love, Bill

He returned to the States and recuperated fully. Just before he was honorably discharged in September 1945, his father wrote him once again about the uniform William had worn in service to his nation:

Tuesday Sept. 11, 1945
Dear Will:
This is just a note to let you know we’ve received your Saturday and Sabbath letters. (So different in tone! Boy, can you gripe when you try.)
The time is approaching for you to lay aside that uniform. I think I sense how you feel. It marks the end of a high spot in your life. Two years ago I wrote you (unnecessarily) to be proud of that uniform and what it has stood for; never to do anything to besmirch it. You have seen how others have lived up to that—and how some others haven’t. You must have a terrific satisfaction in your own experience in that dress. Even I could ask no more than what you’ve done and the manner in which you did it. Your spirit has been beyond praise.
Your griping, 99% of the time, was not because you were asked to do something, but because you weren’t asked to do more. I’d say that was nearly unique. If they enter merely “Honest and Faithful” on your service record, it will be a glaring understatement.
You can look ’em all in the eye—and best of all, you can look yourself in the eye. That uniform you lay aside will not remind you of shirking as it will some, who will try to forget embarrassing incidents and shrink just a little when some passing uniforms reminds them of their sins.
You’re about to put on a new dress. It sounds corny, but it is as important as
the uniform; simply the clothes of an American citizen. They, too, have a meaning. You must do your share to uphold and enhance that meaning.
In Egypt, I was amazed at the way the people could always tell that we were American—Not English, Australian, Germany, or anything else. And “American” meant Something Different to them—it meant everything to millions of people. You get what I mean. Let’s keep the American difference, even though there are some who would try to turn us into synthetic Russians or something of the sort. Let’s try to continue to be charitable, decent, generous—and more honest than we’ve been as a nation the last dozen years. Only your generation can make it so. College should be a way of helping you to do so. The battle for individual liberty will have to be fought again.
So you’re off on a new adventure… Never forget the one that is closing, especially its moments of exaltation…But seize all the swift-passing opportunities you yet will encounter to serve God and your fellow man—nothing less.

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