The boy was reared by his Maternal grandmother and that extended family. Everyone loved the boy and claimed him as their own. He worked hard for both his Uncles on their farms, and was pleased to do so. His cousins were like sisters and brothers to him, he wanted not for familial care, although he had no living mother. He grew to look like his lost mother, his eyes that clear sky blue, his hair a light brown, that had been blond at birth. Just as he had been a happy child, he was a happy young man.
There was a war going on. World War 2 raged and the draft was in full swing. Although he was one of his Uncle's sole help on the family farm, his number came up and there was no denying it, he was destined to go.
On a cold New Year's day in 1944 the family saw their "son" for the last time. They saw his last smile, heard his last laugh, heard his last words...his young cousin Margaret told him that she would write to him everyday. He smiled and told her, "I'll be watching for them." Though forced, it is that smile that she remembers today. Very soon after leaving he was sent to France. He died in the Battle of Urschenheim where he was buried in foreign soil for several years before being shipped home. No one could believe he was dead because he had been gone such a very short time. Their hearts were broken. The Grandmother, upon hearing the news, sat in the middle of the kitchen floor and pulled her apron over her head and began to cry. She felt a failure because first she had lost her daughter and now she had failed to protect that daughter's son. Misery was in the center of her soul for the rest of her life.
Martus's bible, which he had carried in his jacket pocket, had been found by a Russian Soldier who had shared his foxhole and he carried the bullet riddled, blood soaked book of solace for a couple of years, before giving it to his wife to return to Martus's family. It arrived with a letter written in French explaining the events of the battle and their kinsman's death. It would be two years before they found anyone to translate it.
The body of Martus Douglas, according to legend, was returned in the company of an Honor Guard. It was felt that the Honor Guard was there more to keep the families from opening the coffins , that families suspected was filled with stones, more than to honor the soldier they accompanied. That could be partially true.
Martus's Aunt Nancy was out in the back garden area while her nephew's body lay reposing in the front room. She had gone to the smoke house to get meat for dinner and the garden for greens. She looked up from her chore, as I was told, and saw a young soldier enter the kitchen through the screened porch. Thinking that one of the Honor Guard needed something, she hurried to the house and went in to ask. The two young soldiers both assured her that they were fine and that they had not left the front room or the body they had sworn to protect.
Nancy went into the kitchen where her daughter Patricia was reading a funny book, as they were called in the day. "Did you see a soldier come in here?" she asked. Pat, putting her comic on her knees, told her mother that she had seen one of the honor guard soldiers go up the narrow stairs to the rooms above. He had not returned. Nancy, who had reared her sister's son as her own, was breathless. She had seen him enter the house, Patricia had seen him go up the stairs where his room was located, and the Soldiers in the front room were both at their post. Patricia swore that the soldier had not returned. Nancy gathered her courage, looking from the front room to the stairway hall, she moved slowly to the alcove where the stairs lay. She climbed the stairs and searched all three bedrooms. No one was there. But she felt a lightness of spirit that she had not felt in a long time. In her heart she knew that Martus had returned, no matter a coffin with a body or a coffin filled with stones. Her boy was home.
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