by Salvador Castro


April 1945

At long last the hospital train I was on, from California, was in New Jersey. As the train went through my hometown of Newark, I tried desperately to embrace all of the familiar sights that flew by. The sights I thought about while sitting in a jungle foxhole in the South Pacific. How I wish I could jump off the train and run home.

The train trip ended at Camp Upton on Long Island, NY. The camp had been made into a convalescent hospital.

The first weekend was awaited with great anticipation. I was issued a uniform and a weekend pass.

When I got off the train in Newark Pennsylvania Station , I sprinted out of the station into a beautiful spring day. It was a short distance to the bus stop. As I boarded the Chapel Street bus, the bus driver placed his hand over the fare box.

He would not let me pay the fare. He said, “Welcome home soldier”.

As the bus traveled along Ferry Street, I was greeted by familiar sights and smells. The Ironbound and Rivoli Movies. East Side High Annex. Sweet aroma of cakes from Nabisco. The odor of hops from Ballantine Brewery. As I got off the bus at Brill St, I was able to detect the faint smell coming from the Farmers Feed at Raymond Blvd and Chapel Street.

As I was walking down my street, I was greeted by surprised neighbors to see me home. It was reminiscent of Norman Rockwell's painting "Homecoming".

When I walked into my home my mother was standing in the kitchen, my father was sitting in a chair. We cried and hugged. She knew that it was me before I opened the door because she recognized the sound of my foot steps on the stairs.

Through her tears, my mother told me that her good friend's son was killed in Europe. She told me about getting the dreaded telegram from the War Department.

When she saw an older man with the telegram, she thought that I had died of the wounds that I had written to her earlier. The common practice at the time was to have an older man deliver the telegram with the death notice. She was relieved when he told her that I had been wounded.

It was great to be home again. After more than six decades, I still get a lump in my throat recalling those wonderful moments.


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