Preface to Some Wars Never End
Billy White was my grandfather. ‘Billy’ is the name I always remembered my Nannie use whenever she referred to her husband in the third person. But to all of us – as far back as I can remember, he was Granddaddy.
It is a rare occurrence in life, that one is granted an opportunity to write down the life story of someone in their family. It is rarer still, that they write down the story (or in this modern age, type) in the form of a novel… and then publish that novel to send out to the modern world, for anyone to read.
Some of my fondest memories as a boy growing up, are memories of visits with Nannie and Granddaddy. Of course, there were times that a young immature boy like me didn’t understand the significance of my grandparents’ generation. Appreciation back then was mostly in the emotional, affectionate sense; the familiar love for family. It wasn’t until I’d become a full grown man, that I realized – my grandparents were from a generation of Americans that will soon be lost to us all. Often, their generation has been referred to as the Greatest Generation… even by famous anti-American news pundits. I caught small glimpses of their greatness, in the jewels of wisdom I heard on occasion, on some of the many visits I took with my mother and brothers.
After all, Granddaddy was my mother’s father; Nannie was her mother. We spent many a mile, traveling to places like Blacksburg, Columbia, Due West, and even Abbeville, South Carolina, learning about my mother’s side of the family a little more with every trip. I was especially blessed for a short time in my life; my four and a half years at Erskine College – to perhaps grow closer to my Nannie than anyone else in the family at times. Her retirement apartment was in a complex right across the road from Erskine, and I went over to visit her at least a couple of times per week at times.
I will always cherish those years with Nannie. As Nannie grew old, it was difficult at times for me to see her, because we’d grown so close in my college days, and yet dementia eventually wore away her memory of me. I regret that I let the discomfort of her unfamiliarity get the best of me in her waning days. But I will never, ever forget our times in that little apartment in Due West. And it was during those intimate times, that she shared many old stories with me about my grandfather. I started to appreciate him for the man that he was before even my mother knew him, just from some of those stories of Nannie’s nostalgia. But it wasn’t until I sat down to write the story of this World War Two veteran, that I really learned about who Granddaddy was. In some ways, I chose to take on this project, to make it up to Nannie for the lost time that I regret not spending with her in her closing days. But I also think that she would want the world to know her Billy’s story – because she even told a small part of it in a historical book about the history of the families in Abbeville County. Not only did I use her own written words as source material for my research of Granddaddy’s life, but I also used little anecdotes combined with the wise words and memory of my mother’s own brother, my Uncle William, as well as her Uncle, Uncle Jimmie.
The words on the following pages are more than mere words spouting out actual history and events in my grandfather’s life. Some of the stories in the book are speculation on true events; some of the actual details we may never know – because nobody is left that can recall or retell the whole story. But I can assure all readers of this; when you read the following chapters, you will understand the real life sufferings, heartaches, joys, challenges, obstacles, and even blunders experienced by people like Nannie and Granddaddy.
Ironically, I am reminded of the times I stood next to Nannie in the pew at Due West, A.R.P. Church, and I could hear my Nannie’s precious little withering voice singing along with me as I belted out the hymn I am sure my Granddaddy did at one point or another. “Onward Christian soldiers, marching off to war – with the cross of Je-sus, going on, before!” – The irony is that Granddaddy was the singer in the family, and he really was a soldier. But if I can accomplish anything from the telling of this story, it would be this: that I will do Granddaddy’s story the same justice by showing through many more words than she did, how my Nannie felt about her husband’s mission in life as that Christian soldier; and that the story of Annelle and Billy White is seen as a love story. My mom would tell you, everything wasn’t always hunky-dory in the White household. But I hope people can see, that especially after what happened to Granddaddy’s mind after the war, Nannie gave her life to this man, not just because she promised to… but because she truly loved him.
I will close this preface with this; the following story shows not just the effects of war on one man and his family. It tells the journey that so many men and women like him have taken throughout our country’s great history. I pray these words are found by some as nostalgic and wholesome; something about America worth remembering. And more than anything, I pray we, as Americans, never forget who we are, or the history that made us.
------------------more to come, in Some Wars Never End - Summer of 2021