Heroes: the Army
"...I love strawberry jam. In this package was a bottle of strawberry jam. I was not going to share this jam with anybody. When no one was around except my buddy, I told him about the jam..."
Keith O. Parkin
- Branch of Service: Army
- Unit: Co. C., 407th Regiment,
102nd Infantry Division
- Dates: 1942 - 1945
- Location: European Theater
- Rank: S/Sgt.
- Birth Year: 1925
- Entered Service:
A True Love Story
by Keith Parkin, 407-C
Great stories effecting ones life are caused by world events. That is why I want to tell a true love story, greatly influenced by my going into the Army and fighting with the 102nd.
My story begins when I was in seventh grade. I had just finished the sixth grade at an elementary school in Salt Lake City, Utah. I went to a new Junior High School in seventh grade and in my very first class I was seated at the end of the table. A very pretty girl by the name of Joyce Lavin was seated to my right. Joyce was 11 years old and I was 12. I couldn't help to notice how pretty she was. We talked and immediately we like each other. She was as nice as she was pretty.
During the next three years we became the best of friends but, believe it or not, we never dated or even held hands. We talked a lot and she became a great influence on me. I can remember being tempted to do things, but a small voice said: "Joyce would not like that." I did notice that I couldn't keep my eyes off her.
We went on to High School. In the 10th and 11th grades we didn't have many classes together, but we started to write notes back and forth. We did start to date some. In the 12th grade we fell deeply in love and spent as much time together as possible. It was in the fall of 1941 and we were very aware of the world situation. We were so much in love that we talked about what we would do when we got married. We decided that we would get married after the war ended. We were so much in love I didn't even propose to her. We knew we were meant for each other.
As Christmas approached in 1941, I wanted to get her a special Christmas present. I agonized over what to give her. On December 7th, Pearl Harbor was bombed. A lot of talk was about buying war bonds for the Country. That did it. Patriotic Keith bought the girl of his dreams three dollars worth of War Bond stamps to place in a savings book. Three dollars was a lot of money in those days... and Uncle Sam needed the money.
At High School I was interviewed for a job with the FBI in Washington, DC. I graduated from high school in 1942, registered for the draft and went to Washington. Joyce's brother lived in Washington and he and his wife were about to have a baby. Joyce's mother came to Washington and Joyce came with her. I rented a room close by. After her mother returned to Salt Lake, Joyce remained in Washington. Both of us enrolled in evening classes at George Washington University after working at all-day jobs. One thing we did each day was to put all of our money change in a bottle to save for a rainy day.
I received my draft call with orders to report in the Washington area. With permission from the draft board, I returned with Joyce to Salt Lake and to say good bye to my Mother. My two brothers had preceded me going into the Armed Forces. My Dad had died in 1940 and Mom was very much alone.
I received another order to report for service on March 12, 1943. About March 1st we decided not to wait for the end of the war to get married, but to do it immediately. Since both Joyce and I are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, we wanted to get married in the Salt Lake Temple. This we did, On March 8th, just three days prior to going in the Army. We were both 18 years old.
I reported to Ft. Douglas in Salt Lake City and went to Ft. McClellan, Alabama for basic. The love letters started immediately. Joyce wrote me every day and I remember she always ended her letters by saying: "I love you &emdash; Don't for get to say your prayers." I tell this story because I always felt her presence and that she was guiding and protecting me while I was in the Army. She was always, and still is, an inspiration to me.
At Ft. McClellan our love affair continued with a letter each day and my weekly telephone call to Joyce. To phone long distance, one had to place the call at a Phone Center where operators placed the call and when the call was ready they called you to a phone. Every Sunday, my life was spent at the phone center where you sometimes waited as long as 7-8 hours. It was worth it.
At Ft. Mac the entire company had to take an aptitude test for some unknown reason. At the end of basic, the entire Company received orders except for about 5 of us. After 10 days, we found out the reason for the test. I was ASTP bound and assigned to Antiock College in Yellow Springs, Ohio.
Joyce joined me in Yellow Springs. She rented a room and gained employment at a foundry which produced war materials. It was extremely hard work. But when you are in love it's worth it. We were able to continued our 3 day honeymoon on weekends and sometimes during the week. ASTP at Antiock lasted only 3-4 months and we were relocated at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana. Again, my wife joined me. In March, 1944, ASTP was phased out and life in the 102nd began.
Joyce returned to Salt Lake City and was anxious to do her part in the war effort. She immediately enrolled in a Red Cross Nursing course. She then volunteered as a nurses' aid in local hospitals. When the 102nd moved to Ft. Dix she knew that her husband was heading overseas as a combat infantry soldier. If her husband was going to fight for his country, she wanted to help the combat soldier.
So she volunteered to work at Bushnell Army Hospital in Brigham City, Utah. At Bushnell, she was an unpaid nurses aid, receiving only board and room. (Later the position became a paying job.) I was now in combat, but she had the fortitude to help other wounded soldiers. Bushnell cared only for combat veterans with combat inflicted wounds. She was helping soldiers who were injured doing what I was doing. I asked her if she was worried. Her answer was: "I knew you would be all right." Her duties were various, but at one time she even wrote a dictated letter to the wife of a soldier who had lost both arms. Joyce was as brave as any combat soldier.
On to the Roer River. You all remember mail call. I got my share of letters. I also remember writing love letters to Joyce, trying daily to get a letter written. I remember the extremely cold days, sitting in a foxhole, trying to write a "V" mail. I particularly remember Christmas time in 1944. Joyce sent me a package which I received when we were in Linnich. Front line soldiers usually shared goodies with their buddies. I love strawberry jam. In this package was a bottle of strawberry jam. I was not going to share this jam with anybody. When no one was around except my buddy, I told him about the jam. With our mouths watering, we opened the bottle and out jumped a compressed spring. It was not strawberry jam. We got the greatest laugh out of it and had much fun with the bottle. Whenever possible, we left it out for others to drool over and when they opened it we watched their faces as the spring jumped out. It turned out to be a great Christmas gift. Between being in a foxhole with Walter Kronowiak on a cold Christmas Eve on the Roer River with the Germans playing Christmas carols, and the strawberry jam, I will never forget Christmas, 1944.
On to the Rhine. On to the Elbe. The letters kept coming. When we got to the Elbe, our Company Commander passed the word that he had received orders that we would hold our positions and fight no further. The war was over for us. We passed the word to our squads and you can imagine the excitement that followed. About an hour later we received orders that Co. C. 407th Infantry was to cross the Elbe that night, April 28, 1945, to meet the Russians. The war was not over for us. There have been several stories in the Ozark Notes about our capture. I was now a prisoner of war.
Captured April 29. Liberated May 2, the war ended May 8 and my birthday is May 15. My wife has told me about the celebrations on May 8. Her husband had made it through the war! On May 15 my wife was home. The doorbell rang and she answered. It was a Western Union Messenger with a telegram for Joyce. In a good humor remark, the messenger said something to her to the effect "Good news from the war front." She opened the telegram and it read "THE SECRETARY OF WAR DESIRES TO EXPRESS HIS DEEP REGRET THAT YOUR HUSBAND, S/SGT KEITH 0. PARKIN HAS BEEN MISSING IN ACTION IN GERMANY SINCE 29 APR 1945. What a way to end the war and celebrate my birthday. About a week later she received a "V' mail from me stating that I was OK. On May 24 she received another telegram from the Secretary of War that I had returned to duty. Later, when I arrived home, I asked Joyce what she did when she received the first telegram. Her answer was simple. "I started to cry, went to my room, and prayed." She said she received immediate reassurance that I was OK and would return home safely. Her prayer was answered.
I returned home in June, 1945 and was given a 60 day furlough. Our three day honeymoon now continued. After the furlough I was sent to the Baltimore Hotel in Santa Barbara, California. Joyce was with me. The duty assignment was for reprocessing and it took two days, but the Army kept us there for two weeks. What an assignment! The honeymoon continued. I was sent to Fort Ord, California for duty until I returned to Ft. Douglas, Utah for discharge.
On February 12, 1946 I was discharged &emdash; almost three years in the Army and almost three years after I was married. My wife was waiting for me at Ft. Douglas and I desperately wanted to get out as fast as I could. There was one long line to go through and a very short line. The short line was to sign up for the Army Reserves. I did. It saved me at least a hours line and now my wife and I were going to start a real honeymoon.
I have never been sorry I joined the Reserves. I spent 36 years going to weekly meetings and two weeks or more each year at summer camp. Later I was promoted to Master Sergeant, commissioned as a Second Lieutenant, and retired as a full Colonel in the United States Army.
In 1952 the greatest battle of our life was fought. In the prime of her life, at the age of 27, Joyce came down with polio and was hospitalized, losing the use of both her legs and effecting her back. On her return home, she had no feeling in her legs. This was prior to the discovery of the Salk vaccine. Through lots of prayers, determination, hard work and the help of her great mother, she learned to walk again. At that time we had two little boys. Since then we have added two daughters and one more son. All great kids.
Today, 58 years later, our honeymoon continues and it will for all eternity. We are more in love today than ever. We still love to hold hands and cuddle and often talk about our experiences. We would not trade them for anything. She is still as pretty and nice as she was in 7th grade.
I am extremely proud to have served our great country in the 102nd Infantry Division. My proudest possession, except for my wife and kids, is my Combat Infantry Badge. I love you, Joyce.
Written May 24, 2002 by Keith Parkin
----- Keith Parkin
(Editor's note: Attempts were made throughout the text of the following story to place full names to the men listed in the story. For the most part, this is an educated guess and some names may very well be mistaken in their identy. The names were all taken from the division history book: With The 102d Infantry Division Through Germany, edited by Major Allen H. Mick. Using the text as a guide, associations with specific units were the basis for the name identifications. We are not attempting in any to rewrite the story. Any corrections are gladly welcomed.)
12 January 2005.
A photo of Co. A., 2nd Platoon, 407th Regiment, 102nd Division. This image is on a page that is dedicated to Mr. Edward Marchelitis, Sr., by his daughter Carol. Most of the men in the photo taken on December 20, 1943 are identified on the back of the image.
To view the photo of Co. A., 2nd Platoon, 407th Regiment as well as other photos of Edward Marchelitis, click on the image above.
The family of Mr. Marchelitis is seeking information on his platoon.
A special Thank You is extended to the daughter of Edward Marchelitis, Sr., Carol Marchelitis Heppner.
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The above story, "A True Love Story", by Keith Parkin, 407th, C. Co., was originally published in the 102d Division "Ozark Notes", Vol. 54, No. 2, Jan/March 2002, pp. 4 - 6.
The story is re-printed here on World War II Stories -- In Their Own Words with the kind permission of the 102d Infantry Division Association, Ms. Hope Emerich, Historian. Our sincerest THANKS for the 102d Infantry Division Association allowing us to share some of their stories.
We would also like to extend our sincere THANKS to Mr. Edward L. Souder, former historian of Co. F., 405th Regiment. His collection of stories of the "Kitchen Histories Project" series entitled, Those Damn Doggies in F, were responsible for bringing the stories of the men of the 102nd Division to the forefront.
Original Story submitted on 28 October 2003.
Story added to website on 11 November 2003.
September 5, 2002.
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