|OPINION PAGE - NOVEMBER 10, 1999 - JEFFERSON, GA|
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The Jackson Herald
November 10, 1999
A private fiefdom?
By Mike Buffington
November 10, 1999
Gause book is a Veterans Day tribute
It is altogether fitting that the official release of Major Damon "Rocky" Gause's war memoir is taking place on Veterans Day 1999. By now, just about everyone in Jackson County is aware of Gause's book, "The War Journal of Major Damon Rocky Gause." A native of Jackson County, Gause penned his journal after surviving an escape from the Philippines and making his way to Australia by boat during the early months of World War II.
Unfortunately, Major Gause didn't live to see his work published, having died in a flight training accident in England later in World War II. Although the basic story was widely known at the time, having been published in numerous newspapers and magazines, it soon fell into the shadows as the war dragged on.
But Gause's son, also named Damon, kept his father's memory alive, first by absorbing the stories as a child and now by seeing that the memoir is finally published as a book.
And what a book. Although I first read the raw journal about 15 years ago, I was still amazed when I read the book again last week. It is a story of courage and survival set against the backdrop of the century's greatest conflict. How could two men in a small, leaky boat travel through so much enemy territory and make it home alive?
On its face, the book is one man's story, but at a deeper level it also reflects much about this nation and its struggles during the last 100 years. Major Gause's journal reflects that which is good about the United States - courage in the face of adversity, ingenuity when the odds were long and the ability to survive even the toughest of trials.
It's true, of course, that many others also faced great odds in that war, and in other conflicts of this century. There are many who survived terrible conditions and struggled through long odds, both during battle and as prisoners of war.
But because of its rich detail that had been kept in a makeshift diary during the escape, Major Gause's journal stands out not just because he escaped, but also because he was a gifted writer. And in the end, he pays tribute to all those who helped along the way by acknowledging that his story is really the story of many people who risked their lives so that a "lone hunted American" might find his way to freedom.
That Major Gause later died in Europe was a tragedy, but his story doesn't end in some remote English graveyard. Through his son's commitment, the once-forgotten manuscript has again reached the public. That a son would wish to honor his father in such a way is understandable, but that's only one part of why this book was published. As Damon says when he speaks to various civic or veterans' groups, the publishing of his father's journal was also a way to honor all of those who fought for the idea of freedom.
In his closing comments, Damon salutes those veterans with words far better than I could write: "My undying thanks to the veterans of our military forces for forever standing tall in their beliefs that all the peoples of the world should live beneath a cloak of liberty and freedom."
And that is why Damon decided to release this book on Veterans Day - as a tribute not just to the father he never knew, but also as a way to say "Thanks" to thousands of veterans who fought so that we all might enjoy freedom.
Mike Buffington is editor of The Jackson Herald.
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