Continuing the Conversation

the secretary of war asks that i assure you of his deep sympathy in the loss of your brother private frank j surek report received states he died seventeen february in italy as result of wounds received letter follows

the secretary of war desires me to express his deep regret that your brother private first class joseph d surek was killed in action thirteen july in france letter follows

On August 24, 1944, at 12:43 in the afternoon, a ticker in a Pennsylvania Western Union office hammered out a telegram addressed to Mr. Leo Surek of Beaver Brook, Pennsylvania. A United States Army officer was dispatched to deliver the missive to the clapboard home of Mr. Surek, my grandfather, who was underground at the time in the anthracite caverns of Carbon County. Instead, his wife Rose opened her door to the uniformed messenger, and knew instantly. Moments earlier, she had been sitting in her living room, cradling her newborn daughter—my mother. Both cried as the olive-clad soldier awkwardly tried to offer comfort.

Four months earlier, the scene had been rehearsed when Frank Surek was killed in Anzio, Italy. Now his brother Joseph was gone, too, lost somewhere in France.

For as long as I can remember, Frankie and Joey’s pictures have hung in my...

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About the Author

Brian P. Murphy is is a free-lance writer and a graduate of Haverford College.