Finally Coming Home
Updated: Jul 24, 2021
Another Monday, I hated that day. Especially, a snowy, freezing, miserable December day in Michigan. As I made my way to our break room, I heard the usual. "Morning LT, Morning Lieutenant Flynn, nice day isn't it LT?" My people loved to aggravate me. All of them knew until I had my first cup of coffee, I hated to talk. I went into our breakroom and grabbed a coffee mug and poured a cup of the Elixir of the Gods. I just took my first sip when I was interrupted by Detective Ellen Johnson. "Lieutenant, this envelope came in the mail addressed to you. The postmark is Leipzig, Germany." As she handed it to me. I saw the sender was Klaus Neumann in Leipzig.
"Thank you, Ellen." I started towards my office with Ellen right behind me. Sitting behind my desk I shook my head when I saw the stack of reports I needed to review. Ellen just stood there. "Aren't you going to open it?" "Yes, but right now I have homicide files to review and one is yours.” By the time I said yours, Ellen was gone. I picked up the envelope and just stared at it. Who was Klaus Neumann? What did he want with me? As the Detective Lieutenant of Detroit PD's ninth precinct homicide division, I had little free time. So the envelope would need to wait. We had the second-highest homicide rate in the city. Over eighty percent were drug-related. We had four over the weekend. I had the case files to review and meet with the investigating detectives. When I finished the last one, I had a chance to look at the envelope. Before I opened it, my phone rang. It was dispatch, there was a homicide at the Greenwood apartments at Seven Mile and Gratiot. I told them what detectives would be handling it, and I would be headed there as well. When I arrived, my guys were already on the scene. My detectives quickly updated me. A junkie owed his dealer. When the dealer went to collect, the junkie stabbed to death and took off on foot. Uniform officers acting on the witness description of the suspect had picked him up in an alley off Seven Mile and Chatham. Since the suspect was in custody and my guys had everything under control, I headed home. As soon as I walked in the side door, I was immediately bombarded by my boys. All I knew was there was a package from Germany. There in the kitchen was my wife, Denise. She had the look of sheer frustration on her face. "Thank God, you are home. The boys are driving me nuts over the package." I gave her a kiss. "What package?" My oldest boy, Brendan spoke up. The lady that moved into grandma's house stopped me on the way home from school. Seems the postman left it on the porch. It is addressed to grandma. I left it on the coffee table in the living room." I walked into the living room and looked at the package. The sender was Klaus Neumann the same as the envelope. I had totally forgotten about the envelope. I pulled it out from my inside jacket pocket. Before I opened either one, I started thinking. Leipzig, Germany? Then it came to me. Leipzig had been the bombing target my father was flying towards when his B-17 bomber was shot down over a town called Zeitz. Dad was the pilot of a B-17 bomber. His plane had been hit by German flak and the tail section blown off. At the end of the war, the wreckage was found. Nine bodies were recovered. My father's remains were not. My mother never remarried and spent the rest of her life praying my father would come home. My grandparents, like my mother, held out hope he would return. Sadly, they died never knowing what happened to him. I started to cry as I thought of my father. I was only two when he died in 1944. I had a few photographs. What I knew about him was what my mother and grandparents told me. I tore open the envelope with my family standing next to me. Inside was a letter and a badly faded picture of my mother. Written on the back was, "To Jack with all my love. Yours forever Dolores." I handed the picture to Denise, and I read the letter. The handwriting in the letter was shaky, almost impossible to read. It was from Klaus Neumann. He had been assigned to a Flak crew near Zeitz Germany on November 30, 1944. They saw a B-17 crash close to them. He and several others went to the crash site and found nine dead Americans. German orders at the time were to leave the bodies. Klaus noticed the pilot was wearing a blue beaded wristband that had the name John Flynn -- Boy. Being a new father himself, he risked disobeying orders and with the help of his buddies brought the pilot to the Catholic cemetery a kilometer away. They put the body in an open grave for the unknown and covered it. Klaus had taken a few belongings from the flier and put them into a knapsack. He gave it to the parish priest so after the war, the flier could be returned to his family. Unfortunately, the priest was killed, and the knapsack was left hidden in the rectory attic, until last month. I cried as I read further. My tears soaking the paper. Thankfully, the priest had written Klaus's name and address on a paper and put it into the pack. The parish secretary located Klaus and returned the long-forgotten bag to him. He had written the phone number for his son, Karl, who was a police captain in Leipzig. Klaus said his son would help. As I finished reading the last word, my tears turned into uncontrollable sobbing. Denise put her arms around me. I wiped my eyes and looked at the package lying on the table. It was the size of a telephone book, wrapped with brown paper. It was dirty and torn in places from shipping. The boys stood there staring expressionless as I tore apart the paper. The box was faded white, almost a yellow. It smelled of muss. I sat for a moment clutching it, afraid to see what was inside. I knew my father was dead, but somehow, like my mother, I hung on to the dream that he was still alive. Herr Neumann's letter ended that dream. Denise whispered into my ear. "Sweetie, you need to open it." I lifted the top off and pulled back tissue paper. The first thing I saw was the powder-blue baby bracelet that my father wore that November day. As I lifted it up closer to my tear-filled eyes, I read John Flynn -- Boy. I held it tightly in my hands as the tears flowed down my cheeks. I handed it to Denise and looked inside the box. There were my father's gold captain's bars, his wallet, one dog tag, and the shoulder patch of the Eighth Air Force. I handed everything over to Denise and the boys except the black leather wallet. I sat back in my chair and slowly opened it. The first thing I saw was his military identification card. Right behind were pictures of my mother and one of me being held by my mother. I started to laugh when I saw the last picture. It was my mother standing outside of their house holding up a rolling pin. On the back, she had written. "Jack don't even think of any other woman. Love Dolores." Just as I was feeling better, in the billfold, I found a folded yellowish piece of writing paper in between some dollar bills. I unfolded the small piece of paper. Written on it were these words. "To my Dolores and John. We cannot choose when it is our time, only God knows when. If my time comes, I want you to know I love you both. I will never leave your sides. Just think of me and I will be there." I collapsed back into my chair crying so hard and sobbing that it hurt. Denise put her arms around me. "John, what is it?" I handed her the paper. She started crying as she read the words. I finally was able to stand up. I looked at my boys and Denise. "My dad will be coming home." For the first time in my life, I could talk about my father with joy. The next morning, as I headed into the office, I made a stop at Holy Redeemer cemetery to visit my mother. There on the headstone was inscribed my mother's birth and death dates. Next to her was my father's name with his death date left blank. I spoke to my mother. "My wondering is over; I know dad died. You two are together in heaven. We can finally finish your stone. I stood there in the bitter cold of December, thinking what a wonderful Christmas this might be knowing my father was found. I said my goodbyes and drove to my precinct with only one thought. Calling Karl Neumann. As soon as I walked into the squad room, I headed directly to my office. I dialed his number. When he answered he said he had been waiting for my call. He had located me and knew I was with Detroit PD. He had already begun the paperwork necessary to open a grave. I gave him all the information I had on my father. He would personally supervise the recovery of my father's remains. With any luck, we should know by Christmas. The next several days were a blur. We had three more homicides to investigate. Although I only supervised the detectives, I still was actively involved. Always in the back of my mind was Germany. I took Christmas Eve and Christmas day off just in case I heard from Karl Neumann. Try as hard as I could, not to think about Karl's call, I could not. Finally, about two o'clock on Christmas day our home phone rang. My heart sunk as I reached for the handle. I lifted it and said "Hello." "John, this is Karl Neumann." I froze when I heard his voice. "John, we have him. The identity was verified by the information you provided and his military records. Plus, he still had on one dog tag. Congratulations, I will help work through the US Army Office of Graves and Registration to get your father brought home." I could not thank him enough for finding my father. I asked how his dad was doing. There was a pause and he said: "My father passed away this morning, but not before I was able to tell him the good news. John, I think he only lasted this long to make sure your father was found." I told him I was sorry about his father's passing. "John, think of this. My father is with your father now. No longer, enemies, they are friends." We said our goodbyes and hung up. Denise and the boys were all standing around me. I hugged them all and said "My father is coming home. Denise, I need to go see mom." She smiled and gave me a kiss. "Go tell mom the good news." The rest of the winter went by fast and soon spring had arrived. On the way to the office, I stopped by the cemetery. What a beautiful spring day it was. As I stood looking at their headstone, the sun seemed to make it sparkle. There finally etched below my father's name was Died: November 30, 1944. The tears I once shed were gone, replaced with happiness knowing my father was once again with his wife and family.