Thursday, September 08, 2011

My Dad was a soldier for about five years. He was also a soldier before he was a soldier. And he was a soldier after he was a soldier. Martin Jens Damgaard, youngest of eight children of Christian Sorensen and Metha Kirstine, joined the Civilian Military Training Corps during the Depression and learned some of the basic protocols and training routines of the U.S. Army at that time. It was then that he learned of the man who would become his C.O. during World War II--Colonel Kearney. Dad was a soldier long before he enlisted just before Pearl Harbor in 1941. After he was mustered out of the Army in early 1946, he was offered and accepted a civlian engineering job at Fort Belvoir, VA with the Corps of Engineers, with whom he had served throughout the war. From there he moved to the Office of the Chief of Engineers in Building T-7, next to National Airport and from there to the new Army Materiel Command until his retirement in 1973. From professional soldiering, he worked in support of soldiering for the remainder of his career. He was Chief of the Mobility and Equipment Branch in AMC as a GS-15 at retirement. Although his handling of the stresses of his position, and the times in which he worked was with great difficulty, I would say he loved the Army his whole working life. And near the end of his working career, as I was growing up there were two moments regarding me, that stay in my memory clearly. First, I remember he was very joyful that my draft lottery number was high (something like 350) in my year of eligibility for the draft--he told me that he did not want me to have to go to Viet Nam. Second, he counseled me gently away from joining the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets as a freshman there--a step I was seriously considering. He said he just seriously doubted whether I would be happy in a soldiering environment. It was 1970. It was also one of those subtle moments in one's own history where you later can see that it was a turning point. While Dad loved soldiering he was fairly sure I was not, though currents had been drifting me towards that for years up to that point. Years later, Dad also wrote one of the few remembrances of his war experiences--a letter in 1980 to a Junior High English class in Illinois (upon invitation) to describe his experience as a liberator to Buchenwald Concentration Camp near Weimar, Germany in April 1945. This was the man who raised me.