This Tender Man My Father’s Story by Rich Nelson

by | Mar 13, 2024 | Author | 0 comments

This was the genesis of my book This Tender Man – My Father’s Story. The letters, e-mails, and war journals sent by his fellow soldiers told the stories my father never shared. Here is an excerpt from the book’s Introduction:

“My father nearly died of malaria in the jungles of World War II New Guinea. He enlisted in the Army at twenty-nine, older than many of the men with whom he served, though still young and vigorous and hopeful for the life ahead. The disease he was stricken with on that steamy and unforgiving Pacific island ravaged his body, and he never fully reclaimed his once healthy self.

He came back to his Michigan home in the last days of 1945 damaged by war, though determined to leave his ordeal behind, returning to work, starting a family. Like many soldiers who experience the trials of war, he shared little about his tour of duty. But the scars were there, mostly hidden from others, often minimized or dismissed outright. He sacrificed much throughout his life without grievance or self-commiseration.”

My father never talked about his war. I have no memory of any conversation with him about his service in World War II.

The war did follow him home, though, after his return from the Pacific in 1945, and after leaving his uniformed years behind. The war haunted him, coming out through screams at night, screams that woke the entire family but not him. He had no recollection of those screams, but they came from deep inside him, something from his war experience in need of release.

It was only after his death in 1993 that I learned about his time in the Army.

I recovered his tattered military duffel bag, which had gathered dust for years in my parents’ attic. Letters, photos, and his dog tags were found in the bag, providing the first clues into my father’s past. Also discovered in the bag were the names and addresses of his fellow soldiers, members of the U.S. Army’s 1462nd Engineer Maintenance Company.

I reached out to them; only then did I learn of my father’s brush with death after contracting malaria in the jungles of New Guinea; only then did I learn of the conditions the soldiers endured – the heat and humidity, mosquitoes by the millions, and the endless torrential rains of the tropical Pacific.

This book focuses on my father’s World War II years, but it spans the entirety of his life. The following excerpt is also from the book’s Introduction:

“This is my father’s journey – a child nurtured by Swedish emigrants in a modest Michigan home, an adolescent finding his way through the early years of the Great Depression, a young man whose innocence is shattered in the New Guinea jungles. An unwavering commitment to family, work, and community in his post-war years. Sacrifices unselfishly dispensed, often leaving him weary and worn. And, in his final chapter of his life, a hellish descent into Alzheimer’s.”

My father was a part of the Greatest Generation, the ordinary Americans of World War II thrown into the extraordinary circumstances of the horrors of war, and then returning home to their communities to begin their lives again, going back to work, starting families. With gratitude to Authors’ Lounge for this opportunity, I offer This Tender Man – My Father’s Story, available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle eBook formats.

About the Author

The author, Rich Nelson, is a retired college instructor and social worker. His first book With Fresh Eyes is a collection of essays taken from his columns with the West Michigan newspaper the Norton Lakeshore Examiner. He has also contributed essays to the publications of the American Humanist Association, the International Buster Keaton Society, and the Gay and Lesbian Review.

He is currently working on a new book, his first novel. Rich dabbles in photography and loves the outdoors, among his past adventures backpacking the Grand Canyon and canoeing the Boundary Waters of northern Minnesota. He kayaks Michigan rivers and volunteers with environmental organizations. He resides in Muskegon, Michigan and can be reached at [email protected].


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