Only on rare occasions during my childhood did we see my fathers' extended family, because of our frequent moves with the Air Force.
However, in the summer of 1972, at a memorable family reunion in Massachusetts, the whole family gathered for a beach party and barbeque. My uncle was there, a kind and quiet man as I recall. I was in the presence of a true American hero, and I didn't even know what that meant. I was nine years old and totally oblivious. Nor did I show my gratitude, because I never even knew I should say thank you to this brave man who sacrificed so much for our security and freedom.
WWII veteran Mark Gordon Hazard served with my Uncle Arthur in the European theater. His memoirs from the war, “World War II, As I Remember”, is a touching book, more so for me because his dedication is made to his friend, Arthur “Swanee” Swanson, pictured below.
Excerpt from the book:
"Swanee had been squatting with his back against the side of the hole, heating the coffee. Shrapnel coming down had almost completely severed one leg, and the other was thoroughly macerated. He was conscious and completely lucid. The radio was still intact, so I called back for a stretcher team to come up. As they approached, however, the Germans near the bunker to our front opened up with rifle fire, and the medics had to fall back. I then radioed for a tank, and shortly a Sherman rumbled up with the stretcher team crouched behind it. The tanker saw my hand sticking up out of the hole, and putting a track on each side of our hole, passed over us and stopped. We loaded Swanee on the stretcher and the tank started to back up, protecting the medics. Swanee’s leg fell off the side of the stretcher, held only by a piece of muscle and skin about the size of a hand. I gently put it back on the stretcher, telling Swanee to take it back with him, he would need it. It never occurred to me that he would live to get back to the aid station.
About twenty-five years later I got a phone call - someone asked “Is this Maarrk?” in a Boston brogue. My long-lost buddy finally convinced me that he was still alive and after forty-eight operations over five years could walk, had married his nurse, and had four children and a job. He has been down to Mississippi twice to visit, and we still talk fairly regularly. Miracles never cease. Swanee is alive ...”
My way of saying thanks is different than most. I find expression through my artwork as a Bead artist. By creating beaded tapestries of real people who served in the military, with every bead I pick up on my needle I express my personal thanks. I capture that moment in time in a format that I hope makes people pause, and maybe reflect and discuss what they think. That’s what the Thankful Generations project is intended to do.
It is within this context, and with tremendous respect and thankfulness that I dedicated my next Thankful Generations tapestry to him. Thanks to my cousins Ann and Aileen, I am able to share his story with you, and capture his image as my next beaded tapestry.
The bead pattern I created adds up to 36,195 beads that capture the photographic image of Uncle Arthur during basic training in the 1940's as pictured above. A monumental undertaking indeed, this project took nearly eight months to complete. Why so long? This was only my second WWII tapestry, and I was scared to death I would mess it up!