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Friday, Apr. 29, 2016

Most came home

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Philip H. Lewis
Editor's Note: The following column was submitted from local resident David Lewis in honor of Veteran's Day.

Veteran's Day is set aside to give due honor to those men and woman who faithfully served in the United States military, did their duty, and then came home.

My father, Warrant Office Philip H. Lewis, came home. There was only one "l" in Philip, not two. He was insistent on that after he came home.

Philip H. Lewis was not a warrior. Although not belonging to any religious group which would have made him a legal pacifist, he did not want to go war because he did not want to kill. Being a little older and having two children, he was not sent a draft notice until the third year of World War II. He and my mother had something of a code worked out. She called him at work one day and told him he had received a letter in the mail (she didn't say what or from whom). He went out and enlisted in the Merchant Marine. Only many years after his death was the service of these in harms way sailors recognized.

My mother told the family "war story" many times.

Daddy was sent to Boston for training as a radio specialist (to his dying day he was a Morse code expert). Orders came for him to go to San Francisco and report to a certain ship (that's how the military works -- if he'd been in Frisco they would have sent him to Boston).

In those days everyone went by train. The hubs were Chicago and St. Louis. All passengers had to go though one or the other. Philip Lewis had orders and tickets to transfer trains in Chicago. We lived in St. Louis. He got someone (maybe God knows who) to swap tickets with him so he could stop over in St. Louis.

As mother told the story, because of that stop-over daddy was just a little late getting to California. Wars and ships wait for no man, and another Radio Officer with almost exactly the same name took the ship my dad was scheduled to take.

He came home and like most of "the greatest generation" went to work every day, did his best to love his family and rear we three children to honor God and country. He did this through years of bearing with unbearable pain, suffering at the hands of many physicians, and dying young of heart problems easily detected and treated today.

In the process of coming home, Philip H. Lewis instilled whatever little good there is in me. My father was the greatest single influence in my life. Anything I may have actually done right in rearing our five children is due to my wanting to be like him.

After the war somehow my parents learned the ship my father would have taken went down in the Pacific with loss of all hands. In the goodness of divine Providence and military red tape I owe my being to a veteran whom I would never know. Lewis H. Phillip did not come home.