In the Arms of a Soldier

In the Arms of a Soldier

From Chicken Soup for the Military Wife's Soul

In the Arms of a Soldier

Here I am, where I ought to be.

Louise Erdich

The call came from Barton, my husband. He was asking me to come to Norfolk, Virginia, as soon as possible. “Please bring my little son with you,” he pleaded.

His ship had come into port for just a few days, a short stay. Big things were happening in Norfolk, the largest naval base in the United States, with many ships anchored in the area. Barton was sure the war would escalate soon.

I began to pack immediately, to prepare for the journey. Little Michael was just six months old. It would be his first trip. Baby food, diapers and clothing needed to be gathered and packed.

We traveled from my hometown of Ottawa, Ohio, to Cincinnati on the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. There we transferred to the Norfolk and Western Line, which would take us directly into the large station in Norfolk.

In those days, the railroads were very busy shipping war equipment and transporting the military troops across country to the port cities. The country was at complete mobilization and was at full alert for the active duty of all troops.

Little Michael had six uncles in military service as well as his sailor father.

During the layover in Cincinnati, I was helped by the Travelers Aid Station. They gave me a room where I could feed the baby, heat his bottle and change his diaper. Even a rocking chair was available. We waited there until our train was called.

When we boarded our coach, I found it to be full of military men, mostly sailors. We settled into our seat, and the baby immediately fell asleep. Our journey began, and as we went along, I enjoyed the sight of the beautiful Allegheny Mountains.

When Michael awoke, the sailor sitting next to me asked if he could hold my baby. He held him for a while, and then, when he became more comfortable, he relaxed and even began to speak to the child.

As we journeyed on, the sailor in the seat behind us asked if he could also hold the baby. He was passed over the seat and into the sailor’s hands. Across the aisle, another military man asked if he could hold the baby, and so it began.

I was not fearful of the child being passed from one to the other. I could only think that these young men were going to war and there was no certainty as to whether they would return. If that small infant gave them some pleasure, surely they should have it.

They began to pass the baby up and down the coach. They marveled at his tiny hands and fingers, at how he seemed to enjoy the attention with his little smile and content demeanor.

When I seemed to have lost contact with the baby, I walked to the back of the coach and found Michael sound asleep in the arms of a sailor. He asked me to leave the child. “Please don’t take him,” he said. “Let him sleep, and I’ll bring him to you when he awakens.” He explained that he had left his little son when he boarded the train in Cincinnati.

As we arrived in the Norfolk station, I just knew that Michael, that tiny child, had given those sailors something special: a reason to serve their country, something to fight for and a determination to return home for better days.

Mary D. Jackson

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