I remember as a young boy, going out to play, I would sometimes see old Mr. Kimball, sitting on the steps of his porch, often reading the paper. World War II was in full swing so the newspapers and radios were avidly sought out for the latest news. Mr. Kimball was a fireman, and probably not even that old, but he seemed that way to me.
Sometimes, he would invite me to sit with him and we would talk about everything and nothing. I loved spending time with him because, he was the only grown up I knew that took the time to entertain the mind of a young boy.
In his front window hung a small flag. It had a red border surrounding a white field, upon which there were two blue stars. I was always curious about it, so I asked him what it was. He said “It's a Sons in Service flag. One star for each son serving. You remember my boys don't you?” I did of course. Chuck, the oldest, used to tease me, calling me a sissy to get a reaction. Bobby was a couple of years younger, and the bike I was riding once had been his.
Mr. Kimball went on to explain how Chuck was now in the Army and fighting in France. Bobby was in the Navy, aboard a ship somewhere in the Pacific. He didn't say it, but I'm sure he was worried about both, communications being what they were back then.
One day, when I was walking over to see him, I noticed that the flag had changed. It now carried one blue star, but the other one was gold. With the innocence that comes of being a child, I asked what the gold star meant. He quietly said “It means Chuck is coming home”, and without further comment, he turned and went in the house.
A couple of days later, I saw a hearse pull up to the Kimballs house, and four men carry a flag draped box up the porch steps. That is the moment the meaning of war came to a small boy. I knew Chuck was home.