A Prayer Book for Soldiers and Sailors Sent to My Uncle 71 Years Ago Finally Reaches Him
Early in the spring on 1944 the Reverend James V. Knapp picked up a small brown volume known as The Prayer Book for Soldiers and Sailors opened it and wrote: To Richard W. Buschel with the
best wishes of all his friends at All Saints’ Church. Then he signed it and added: Harrison N.Y., March 23, 1944.
What was going through the minds of these two men as Rev. Knapp penned those words on March 23, 1944? I imagine Rev. Knapp in sending his and the congregants best wishes was also praying for my uncle’s safe return and the return of all the other young men who had been sent to insure the defeat of the Axis powers and the resumption and continuation of the “American Way of Life.” How many of those little books did the reverend inscribe that day? The next? And the day after that? Was my father sent one? My uncle’s twin brother, Stan? Or the two other Buschel brothers who also served in WWII?
Earlier, when I asked what was going through the minds of these two men, maybe the better question would have been: What was on the minds of this man and this boy, since on March 23, 1944, my uncle was hardly a man having turned 18 only a few months before those words were written. Desperate times called for desperate measures as millions of boy-men were shipped off around the world to fight.
As for answers, I doubt we’ll ever know. It’s amazing enough that the book even turned up to prompt the asking. My Uncle Dick, now 89 and in failing health, claims he never received the Prayer Book. Who knows? His mind certainly isn’t as sharp as it was 71 years ago or even 7 years ago.
And what of this little book’s odyssey? We’ll probably never know the story behind its journey. We know where it began: March 23, 1944 at All Saints’ Church in Harrison, and how it ended on March 18, 2015—nearly 71 years to the day—when I received an e-mail from Millie Noskov, the Parish Administrative Assistant at All Saints’ Church, that opened with: An Army Veteran from California would like return a prayer book belonging to Mr. Richard W. Buschel.
We know the Veteran from California was given a WWII bible by his son who bought it on e-bay and when that Vet opened it he found the little prayer book tucked away in its pages, and upon seeing the name and picture of the 18 year old Richard, felt it his duty to track my uncle down, and if still alive, make sure it was returned to him.
When I finally gave it to my uncle (I delayed for a bit because he suffered a broken his leg shortly after the book arrived) he, as I stated earlier, said he didn’t remember ever receiving it, but upon opening it it opened many doors to the past. He began talking about leaving home for basic training, his time in France, his buddies, a losing streak at poker and the long, long road he had to travel before he got back home.
In the end, though I’d like to know where it’s been for the last 71 years, it doesn’t really matter. What matters are the memories, good and bad, but mostly good, that it helped bring back to my uncle.
And in case you were wondering, all five brothers came home from the war and led productive lives. All married and had children except for Uncle Dick whose two children died in infancy. My father even taught Sunday school for a while at All Saints’ and nearly all nine brothers and sisters had their funeral services at All Saints’. My uncle is the last of that generation’s Buschels.
At one time you couldn’t throw a stone in Harrison and not, in all likelihood, hit a Buschel. Today there are only two left, cousins, and strangely we’re both named Bill Buschel.
If you’d like to write to my uncle I’m sure he’d welcome any stories you may have about Harrison, or All Saints’ or anything else for that matter.
22 Masonic Avenue
Wallingford, CT 06492
Finally I’d like to thank Millie Noskov for her heartfelt interest in seeing that the Prayer Book find its way to my uncle after 71 years. I’d also like to thank the WWII Veteran out in California who knew the importance of seeing to the safe return of the Prayer Book.