“Don’t go, please!” The plea came from Mitchell’s wife who looked at him with tears in her baby blue eyes. “I have a bad feeling about this.”
“You know I have to go, babe,” Mitchell returned. He gently pulled his arm from her hand. “It is my duty. I’m a soldier. It’s what I do. Besides, I want to go and you know why that is.”
“I know,” she cried. “But I have a feeling I’ll never see you again.” Phyllis Goodman let her legs collapse beneath her.
Mitchell put down is duffel bag and knelt to hold her. “Don’t worry,” he cooed. “I’ll come back to you. You have my word.” With that he stood, turned and walked toward the vehicle that waited for him in the driveway. It would take him to the military base where his plane awaited him.
Phyllis sat in the doorway crying for some time before she could find the strength to stand. When she finally did, she put the solid expression of a soldier’s wife on her face. ‘It’s just another deployment,’ she told herself. The problem was, in her heart, she knew it was something more.
The days passed slowly with no word from Mitchell. That turned into weeks and finally into months. She exhausted every avenue she could think of to find out information. Even the Red Cross was unable to help her.
Finally Phyllis made an appointment with the base commander. She stated her case and made her plea. She expected to get a stoic response. Instead, she found sympathy and concern. That, at last, gave her heart hope.
“I’ll see what I can find out,” the commander promised. For once, Phyllis believed the military might follow through on the promise. They did.
The phone call came as Phyllis was leaving to run errands. She ran to answer it with hope in her heart.
“Mrs. Goodman,” said a voice that she immediately recognized. “I have news for you about your husband.”
“Yes,” Phyllis waited breathlessly.
“His plane was shot down over Germany. I’m afraid he has been captured by the enemy.”
Phyllis stopped breathing. She found she could not say a word although she tried valiantly to respond.
“Mrs. Goodman, please know that we are doing everything we can to get your husband back,” the commander whispered. “But it is. . . .”
“A time of war,” Phyllis finished the statement for him. “He should not have gone,” she stated flatly. “He did it for me; for my people,” she finished. “I am a Jew.”
“He did it for all of us, Mrs. Goodman. It is men like your husband that make winning such wars possible.” The commander stopped to take in a deep breath. “I realize that is cold comfort. I promise you, my dear, we won’t stop trying to get your husband back.”
Phyllis thanked the commander and put down the phone receiver. Her heart had begun to beat once more but she felt like it was out of tune. One beat, then two, then none for a moment. It was broken. Of that she was certain.
Picking up the phone once again, Phyllis called her parents. She explained the situation fully before tears claimed her once more.
“I can’t talk anymore right now,” she finished.
“I’m coming to you,” her mother said firmly. “I’ll be there as soon as I can.”
“No, mother,” Phyllis insisted. “Money is too tight and gasoline is too rare. There is nothing you can do here anyway. All I can do it wait – and pray. Pray, Mama. Do that for Mitchell.”
Time passed slowly. Phyllis went about her usual routine. She absorbed every piece of information she could get about the war. The base commander also kept her posted. They had made one attempt to rescue her husband and failed. He’d been moved. Still, the military intended to try again. Sadly, she held little hope the outcome would be different.
Suddenly the course of the war changed. The good guys began to make headway as the Germans began to flee. Concentration camps full of Jews were liberated. It was in one of those that Mitchell Goodman was found. He was thin and weak. His mind was scrambled from torture and abuse, but he was alive.
Phyllis and the base commander she now considered a friend were there to meet Mitchell’s plane when it landed. The general held her arm to steady her.
“Don’t be surprised if he is confused,” he cautioned. “He will need some help to get back to the way he was.”
“I understand,” Phyllis whispered. Her voice was barely audible. However, she suspected in her heart that she really could not.
Phyllis spied her husband as he stepped down from the plane. His six foot frame looked frail. His muscles were gone. He moved slowly and without his usual zeal. Still, he moved straight for her, never hesitating for a moment.
“I told you I’d come back to you,” he said as he fell into her waiting arms. “It is all I thought about every day; getting back to you.”
The tears in her husband’s eyes matched her own. Phyllis knew at that instant that they would be okay. It would take time for him to heal but she would help him. It was her job and one she took as seriously as he had when he left her side.
“We are proud of you, son,” the general said. He patted Mitchell on the back. “Thanks to you and men like you, Germany has hope once more.”
“It was my honor sir,” Mitchell said, snapping to attention at last. “I’m sorry, sir, for the breach in protocol.”
“There was no breach, son,” the general said with compassion. “You went right where you belonged; in your wife’s arms. I would have done the same.”
“Still, sir,” Mitchell started.
“Still nothing,” the general added. “When you are better, we’ll talk. I also have a little something to present to you.”
“I need nothing sir. I was just doing my duty.”
“Which is exactly why you deserve it, son.” With that the general tipped his hat toward Phyllis, turned and moved away.
“Why was he here?” Mitchell looked at his wife questioningly.
“It’s a long story,” Phyllis answered. “We’ll have plenty of time to cover it. For now, let’s go home.”
Arm in arm, the two lovers walked away as the general watched from a distance. “There are moments, I truly love my job,” he said out loud. “This is one of them.”