Memorial Day 2011

It occurred to me yesterday that a story about my Grandfather may never have been written. In honor and memory of him and other family members that served the country, I’ll share the short stories as I remember them being passed on.

Chris Schlensker, my maternal Grandfather, served during World War II in the Army Air Force (USAAF). He operated the main turret of a B-17 Flying Fortress, protecting the aircraft against enemy fighters during bombing missions. His bomber completed all it’s assigned missions across Europe, dropping bombs on Axis power military targets.

The most memorable story he shared was of a ‘close call’ during one mission. While flying through anti aircraft fire, Grandpa left his turret to get a replacement oxygen tank. Upon his return to the turret, he discovered a large piece of shrapnel embedded in his seat. It had exploded and broken through the turret bubble during the few minutes he wasn’t there… Turns out, had timing been different – I may not have existed!

There are a number of fond memories about Grandpa Schlensker from my childhood. He passed away when I was ten or eleven, suffering a fatal heart attack. While a young boy, he taught me how to hold and fire a rifle. We would shoot crows and targets at his small vegetable garden. He would also pass out loose change from his pockets during family parties, always a hit with my siblings and I.

Grandmother, Doris Schlensker, also did her part during the war. Upon cleaning her house after moving her into a nursing home, we discovered a cache of hand written correspondence with a number of military men. She wrote as a ‘pen pal’, reminding them of the things they are fighting for.

Thanks to all that serve the country, fighting and doing their part to preserve the freedom we enjoy every day here in the United States of America.

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