Saturday, November 11, 2017

EXTRA: My uncle like many others who felt the call to uniform during WWII to keep us safe from the Nazis

Rummaging through some old family-type photographs my cousin, Lora Ann, gave me earlier this year, I couldn’t help but stumble across this one shot of my Uncle Spinx that feels appropriate to share on Veterans Day.

My Uncle Spinx when he was called to duty
As in Aurelio “Spinx” Salas, who actually was my mother’s uncle (he’s my maternal grandmother’s brother). But Uncle Spinx is a simpler way to think of the man than having to account for all the layers of family that come between us.

ANYWAY, BACK TO the photograph, which shows that my uncle was amongst the thousands of men who – upon U.S. entry into World War II – felt compelled to enlist in some form of service so as to be able to wear a uniform and not have others claiming they were shirking their duty to society.

He served in the Coast Guard, and I have to confess to not knowing much of the details about his military service. I came along a couple of decades later and by the time I would have been old enough to comprehend what he did, it was a part of his distant past.

The fact that he once wore a uniform wasn’t something he dwelled on during his later life, which he lived to the fullest (I still remember his 1970s years riding around  the country with my Aunt Connie on their matching motorcycles) -- rather than trying to exaggerate himself into a 'war hero' to make up for the lack of anything of substance in the rest of his life.

Although I have my own mental image that the streets of Chicago back in the 1940s were being kept safe from Nazis and other fascists who comprised the Axis powers by my Uncle Spinx.

HE’D HAVE KNOCKED out the first swastika-wearing buffoon who dared tried to walk down Commercial Avenue in his home South Chicago neighborhood (where my parents were raised and I was born a couple of decades later).

Part of that image is I can remember him talking about his later years as an educator in the Chicago school system – when he’d tell of some of the “toughs” he’d have to cope with amongst his students and would occasionally have to use some sort of force to maintain control without crossing over the fine line between discipline and excessive force.

My uncle ready in the (boxing) ring
But I also remember his talk about his younger days as an amateur boxer – and I can recall some of my cousins joking around with him about the boxer Leon Spinks, who back in 1978 beat an aging Muhammad Ali for the heavyweight title.

Spinks vs. Spinx – who’d win? We’d always joke about how our uncle would somehow have figured out a way to knock the block off the long-forgotten champ.

IN FACT, I often wonder if my uncle were still with us today (it’s been a couple of decades since he departed this realm of existence) what he’d think of these goofy types who see elements of the fascists as a model for our society and try to put a cutesy "alt-right" label on it – even though his generation did their part to put those Nazi crackpots down for the count.

I suspect he’d be p-o’ed! Maybe enough to figure out a way to come back from beyond the grave (he was cremated, and his urn was buried with my aunt when she died a decade ago) so as to resume the fight he and his fellow veterans of that war thought they’d finished back some seven decades ago.


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