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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Fame (05/10/12)

TITLE: Shutters and Boards
By PamFord Davis


“Take cover! Prepare to fire! Medic!”

I was never able to adjust to the frantic cries accompanying my war heroes’ flashbacks and night terrors. As I rolled over to shake him, the smell of sweat mingled with fear repulsed me.

“Wake up honey! Wake up! You’re having another dream!”

“Yeah, was a bad one.”

He swung his legs and feet over the side of the bed, slumping over in despair. Slowly, he moved into an upright position and stared off into space. It had been another night of tossing, turning and counting tiles on the ceiling until nearly daybreak. When, he did finally doze off, the relentless nightmares had returned.

“Gonna’ get a shower.”

“Do you want me to scramble you some eggs?”

“No Pam, no sense in both of us losing sleep. Get some more rest. I’ll just take a quick shower, grab a cup of coffee at the corner and go for a walk.”

I heard the sounds of the shower running, and the click of the door as he stepped inside, shutting it behind him. My man did not sing in the shower; if he had, he would have made up the words as he went along. He learned to do things for himself at a very early age. His dad, when around, neglected basic needs of the dozen children he fathered. He eventually deserted them, leaving the love of my life to fend for himself, his mother and siblings. He hunted small game, killing rabbits and squirrels to fill empty stomachs.

Audie Murphy, the most highly decorated and famed World War II hero incessantly battled depression, insomnia and nightmares, telltale signs of battle fatigue. Doctors at V-A-hospitals charted his symptoms and prescribed sleeping pills, advising Audie to try to forget the war. Easy for them to say… As they sat in starched white coats, trousers and matching shoes, he still saw the world through camouflage eyes.

Audie had a photographic memory, which was a big asset in his role as famed movie actor. It’s ironic; the memory that helped him to remember page after page of script dialogue, would not allow him to nail shut shutters and boards housing bitter memories. His mind served as a movie theater projector, rolling a non-stop documentary of the enemy attacking and buddies killed in action.

I hoped and prayed his doctors would find a safe medication to allow him to sleep. Once, he had been addicted to a prescription for sleeping pills. Through raw courage and fortitude, he rented a motel room and shook the addiction cold turkey. He was able to get clean and became an advocate to countless veterans, raising attention of the nation to needs of men and women who fought a private war behind closed doors.

As he quietly exited the bathroom, I viewed his 5ft.10’’ frame moving in the shadows toward the doorway to the hall. I never tired of seeing his perfect posture and air of confidence as he walked within our home or across the silver screen. It was love at first sight when we met; I was already his fan. His wavy brown hair, impish grin, and hazel eyes set my heart aflutter. I knew the stories whispered behind my back were true, but my love would never die. Was his weakness for gambling a means of escape from the torment in his mind?

My memories never fade. Audie was taking a flight in a private plane with a small group. I answered the telephone and my life shifted from wife to widow in the blink of an eye. There had been an accident. The famed war hero, famed Hollywood actor, my husband, Audie Murphy was dead. Following his funeral, I faced bare facts. I was not only a widow; I was a woman in need of money to pay off my husband’s debts. He had earned millions of dollars as a box office success, but squandered our income on gambling.

Leaving fame and lost fortune behind, I moved to a Virginia apartment and went to work as clerk in a nearby veteran’s facility, Sepulveda VA Hospital and Care Center. My heart ached for the patients and I gladly served them for the next thirty-five years as a patient liaison. It seemed the nation was deaf and blind to their plight. I became their voice in the wilderness of apathy and red tape. I desired no recognition, only pleaded for the well-deserved honor, respect and recognition to all returning veterans.

Authors note:
Creative non-fiction.
Audie Murphy died at the age of 46 in 1971.
His wife Pamela died at the age of 90 in 2010.
Audie Murphy was also an accomplished songwriter.
His best-known composition is a country-western song titled “Shutters and Boards.”

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This article has been read 390 times
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Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 05/17/12
This is so sad. I have tears in my eyes. There are so many different messages in this piece. You did an excellent job in telling this story.
C D Swanson 05/17/12
This was so well written, it gripped my heart and didn't let it go. I loved the entire piece, the words, the meaning, the message.

Thank you for this excellent entry. God Bless~
Genia Gilbert05/17/12
Good job on this story. I relate because my Dad was among those WWII soldiers who returned with depression, nightmares, and lifelong scars from serving our country. Too bad that Audie Murphy felt the pressure of the public eye in addition to war's after effects.
Marina Rojas05/17/12
I grew up watching Audie Murphy movies with my dad and really appreciate this look at his life.

Really good writing!
Dannie Hawley 05/18/12
Great job on this article with very appropriate title. I had no idea this poor guy suffered so. I do remember that, as children, we were always told to stand at the foot of Dad's bed to wake him by calling his name and never to touch him to wake him. The war had made coming out of sleep a danger for those nearby if Dad were startled out of sleep. Thanks for "the rest of the story." An excellent job!
Sandra Renee Hicks 05/19/12
Greetings -

Thank you for this interesting and informative read that has hope for veterans. Your care for them is appreciated.
Laura Hawbaker05/20/12
Very well written. I like how you took facts and added the emotion behind the scenes. Creative non-fiction-- I like that.
Leola Ogle 05/21/12
This especially touched me since I've had grandkids serving in Afghanistan and a grandson currently serving in a submarine somewhere with the Navy. Well written. God bless!
Hiram Claudio05/23/12
As has been said, this was very well written and flowed beautifully right from the start. I too enjoyed how you took what could have been just static facts and gave them life and feeling. You also brought light to a vital issue of how we care for those who have served their country.

This was extremely moving. Wonderful job!
Edmond Ng 05/23/12
Such honorable fame reduced to naught because of gambling. A very sad story. Thanks for sharing this. Excellent writing!