My WWII Army Captain Dad, Donald Trump, and Veteran’s Day

A story about a brave World War II Captain. Published by literary magazine, Meat for Tea.

My father, David Mark Olds (born David Moses Goldstein), was an Army Captain in WWII. He grew up in the Lower East Side of Manhattan with so much anti-Semitism in the world that he changed his name.

Dad’s barrel chest expanded when he told battle stories: “The smell of rotted flesh” and “seeing corpses stacked like cordwood,” at Dachau. He stood taller when he said, “It was a just war. I was proud to fight.”

WWII Captain David Mark Olds (r)

I’d never seen my father cry until my older sister married a German. Like Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof, Dad tried to accept his daughter’s choice to marry a non-Jew in the country he loathed. It pained him every time we visited her in the country he bravely defended against. Germans had murdered everyone in his family except his Russian parents who’d been sent to America, both at age 16.

This year, pre-election stress made me flee Manhattan for a week to be with my sister and nieces in their tiny rural town near Frankfurt. We spoke of ways the world had changed—a female running for president, a Jew as her Democratic runner-up.

We also spoke of America’s version of Hitler: Trump, the man who memorized Hitler’s speeches. Adolf shouted to crowds, “Make Germany great again!,” while here in my homeland, Trump changed only one word.

My father was a registered Democrat. He said, “People fought for your right to vote.” He taught me never to discriminate against any religion or skin color: “Most people secretly hold prejudices but you must always act with fairness.” Honesty and honor were my father’s signature attributes and he put family first.

See Also: WWII Army Captain Describes Horrors at Dachau

It’s a dangerous time now for everyone. Right-wing politicians in Europe are all cheering. The polls said Hillary Clinton had an 85% chance of winning. If I cried to my father, “How could this be happening?,” Dad would’ve put his arms around me and said what he always did, “People lie in polls. They say what they think others want to hear. They tell the pollsters they read The New York Times, while they buy the New York Post.”

For years, he lamented what happened to the pure jazz radio station he was president of. There weren’t enough listeners to sell the advertising needed to keep it going. “People say they love pure jazz because they like to feel sophisticated. The truth is they only want commercial jazz.”

Perhaps that is a partial explanation for how off the media outlets were about this presidential race. Of course Trump is not Hitler and now that the world has seen the devastation such a demagogue can inflict, my Dad would tell me that I mustn’t fear the worst. “Worrying will wear you down to a frazzle,” he’d say.

“Always take the high road,” Dad said. He taught me to stand strong in the face of adversity. So now, if I appeal to my best self, I can summon optimism that our president-elect will grow into the office and be a more honorable president than he ever seemed as a candidate or reality TV star.

We must believe that Trump will not be able to undo all of the good that people like my father fought for.