FEBRUARY 12, 1944
WASHINGTON, Friday—I had a visit from a Red Cross worker back from one of our fronts yesterday afternoon. I was impressed by her feeling that we, at home, were not giving the proper respect to the overseas boys when they return, permanently or on furlough. I imagine that any boy coming back to his home is made much of and listened to. But in many places, particularly ports of debarkation, we are so crowded and so busy that we do not give as much thought as we should to what it would mean to these boys if every one of us gave them the respect and attention due them.
How many of us know our overseas ribbons, and can tell by looking at them where our boys have served? That would be a good thing to know. If we never missed a chance to make a man feel at home in our city or town even though it was far from his home, it would help. We could make quite a change in the first few days which he spends back in the United States and which he has looked forward to for weary months, if we were always ready to render him any service in our power.
I want to give you excerpts from two letters which have just come to me and which will show what people from home mean to men who are overseas, and how rewarding it is to feel that one has given even a short period of pleasure to these men. The first is from a young Red Cross worker whom I have known for a long time. "I wish you could have seen our men this afternoon—the lounge was packed—and you could have heard a pin drop. They do so appreciate anything that is good. If only more of our top artists would come over from America. I don't think they can possibly realize what it means to the men so far away from home. If they did, they would be proud to serve and eager to come."
The next is from an artist, a well known British musician: "Having just given a concert here to the American soldiers (one of several I have been giving them in different clubs) I felt that you and the President might like to know about it, and how happy I have been to give them an hour of music to stimulate and soothe them so far away from home."
Of course our artists are anxious to go, and many of them do go, but there is the question of transportation which is always difficult.
Our servicemen want attention when they are far away from home. How much more they must want it the day they get home and the days thereafter if they happen to be held in a strange place by hospitalization! It seems to me that a serviceman from overseas should go to the head of any line, be the first served in a restaurant, get the best seat everywhere. He is giving so much for his home and we can give him so little in return.