It was not his choice. It was a command, a demand, an order. He would leave his Polish village in the mountains and become one of them. It did not matter that he was a man of peace. It was no concern of anyone that his heart and soul did not want to be a part of this. He was conscripted with no choice. It was the early 20th Century, and it was his turn to take his place as a soldier. Reluctant, strong-willed, he did as he was instructed to wear the uniform and live the life of the lowest rank in the Prussian Army. Franciszek Slabik would do his service as instructed. He would serve with a heavy heart, and he would serve in selected silence.
In time, Franciszek would emigrate from Poland in 1912 to travel to this dream of America. He had escaped the Great War on the European continent. He married and had a daughter and two sons. His sons would serve during World War II. His older boy was a parachutist who was shot down over Belgium; later he received a Purple Heart. His younger son would fight against the Japanese in the Pacific. Soldiering had continued in his family.
Later, his first grandson would become a cadet at West Point. Proudly, he shared with him his picture in his Prussian uniform. “Be as good a soldier as I was, ” he instructed the young man. His grandson would have a lifelong career in the military and achieve high rank.
Soldier, soldiering…what is its real meaning of sacrifice and honor?