(This is the third dispatch from my good friend Andy, an American serving in Iraq as a doctor in the U.S. Air Force Reserves. In this post, Andy writes about his recently deceased Great Uncle, Leo, who served in WWII. It should be noted, that Andy's father, Larry, is also a veteran of the U.S. Armed Forces)
While being in the military is often very difficult for my family and professional life it offers a number of very positive experiences. What I find particularly moving is the visceral connection I have with my fellow soldiers, as well as a similar bond with those who have served our country from past generations - an immediate connection based on a shared experience, and shared values.
It is through this camraderie that I was blessed with the opportunity to reconnect with my Great Uncle Leo Lobl, who died very recently in his 90s. Uncle Leo (and his wife Sarah) were people who I thought about often for a number of reasons. Leo had an almost twin like physical resemblence to my grandfather, Albert Lobl, who passed away when I was in college. Leo also was a loyal attendee of all our family's important events - from Bar Mitzvahs to weddings, and I found him to be an extremely thoughtful and loving man. Unfortunately my contact with Leo had been diminished in recent years.
Uncle Leo was a veteran of the European campaign in World War Two. When he heard I was in Iraq he sent me a number of beautiful emails of encouragement and took a great interest in what I was doing. During our communication I was able to learn about his prolonged tour of Europe (which makes my 90+ day tour in Iraq look like a blink of an eye) and the creature comforts soldiers now enjoy - luxuries unheard of when he wore our nation's uniform. I also had the oportunity to connect with Leo's daughter Karen and we made plans for a Pittsburgh-Chicago Lobl family reunion in the fall, but am quite sad that Uncle Leo will not be there.
A silver lining to my deployment to Iraq is that it has allowed me to renew my relationship with Uncle Leo in a real and personal fashion. I believe Uncle Leo's own experience during World War Two gave him an intuition about how communicate with sombody who was also far from home in a hostile enviroment. His emails provided an imeasurable boost to my spirits.
I am grateful to Leo Lobl for his love, service to our country, and gentle caring nature. Andy