Whenever I hear about WWII soldiers, it’s usually from a documentary, book, or – less frequently, these days – from those who were there. I wasn’t even born yet, and my own parents were too young to be part of the conflict.
But, once in a while, I hear about one of the many, many everyday heroes who helped restore some order in this sometimes chaotic world during those dark days. I wish there were more of them around. Their stories humble me, and I stand in gratitude and awe of their bravery, and how they loved their country so much that they willingly marched forward into what was oftentimes a certain death – just because they believed in what they were fighting for.
One such “everyday hero” was George Rarey, who was drafted into the War and departed New York in 1943, leaving his young wife pregnant with their son Damon. Of course, that was the story that many, many people could tell from that era. How many men left their families in similar situations is a number I honestly do not know.
George Rarey was a cartoonist. I saw one source (I apologize that I can’t place it) where supposedly Charles Schultz of “Peanuts” fame once said that had George Rarey lived, he would have been a famous artist. He had no intention of being a soldier, much less being killed in action. But, that’s what happened (just a few days after D-Day in 1944). Damon, the son that George (“Dad” as he was called in the service at the ripe age of 27) Rarey never knew, spent the last years of his own life maintaining the wonderful collection of cartoon artwork that the senior Rarey had created during his time overseas. Damon passed away in December of 2002, at the very young age of 58.
“Rarey-Bird” was actually the name of George’s Republic P-47 aircraft, named for his son. Today, you can see the collection in a book that Damon put together before his own death. The book is relatively obscure and very rare (only 2,000 were printed from what I can tell), and a bit difficult to find. But, it is called Laughter and Tears: A Combat Pilot’s Sketchbooks of World War II Squadron Life.
Anyway, because I now own this website that bares the George Rarey name, I wanted to take the time to write this first post in his memory and honor – as well as his son’s – and as I raise my eyes to the sky above, I thank both of them for their service to our country, along with my thanks to the countless others who also served, and continue to serve.