My father, Charles Sarasohn, was a member of the U.S. Army serving as a Jungleer in World War II. He fought in the Pacific Theatre, in New Guinea and the Philippines.
Dad’s the one on the right, holding what was a cheeky pin-up drawing.
The root of the noun “Jungleer” is “jungle.” Dad carried a long gun with a bayonet on the end, a sort of small sword he and his Best Generation Band of Brothers in the 41st Infantry Division of the U.S, Army used to slash their way through the steamy jungle thickets of New Guinea and the Philippines. He contracted malaria in the sun-scorched regions, and fought with a bravery and energy I’ll never fathom.
My mother was fortunate in that Charles returned home from WWII, thin and unwell, having dealt with dysentery and malaria….but he was a lucky one who made it through the jungle and, eventually, fathered three daughters.
The 41st Infantry boys were nicknamed the “Sunset Division,” donning a patch featuring a golden setting sun on their shoulder sleeves.
That’s the origin story of that patch, which I can still appreciate having his uniform in my treasured physical memorabilia curated from the life possessions he safely kept over many decades.
Here is a photo of the Sunset Division patch.
Today, I know how blessed I am having had the father I did.
And when I think of that setting sun sewn onto the shoulder of his Army green dress jacket, my mind toggles to Benjamin Franklin.
As a long-time adopted resident of Philadelphia, I’ve spent countless hours in Independence Hall, especially appreciating a room that houses a wooden chair carved with a sun. George Washington sat in that chair for three months of the Constitutional Convention’s ongoing debates about the nature of representative democracy, freedom, and other thorny issues on the road to launching the U.S.
Whilst the last members were signing it [i.e., the Constitution] Doct FRANKLIN looking towards the Presidents Chair, at the back of which a rising sun happened to be painted, observed to a few members near him, that Painters had found it difficult to distinguish in their art a rising from a setting sun. I have said he, often and often in the course of the Session, and the vicissitudes of my hopes and fears as to its issue, looked at that behind the President without being able to tell whether it was rising or setting: But now at length I have the happiness to know that it is a rising and not a setting Sun.
On this Memorial Day 2022, let us take inspiration from my amazing soldiering Dad and his Band of Brothers who fought for the freedom we enjoy and too often take for granted. Let us embrace and positively act on Franklin’s optimism….that the sun is rising….and we must hold strong to our Democracy, the Republic….if we can keep it, as Franklin presciently prescribed.