Sunday, December 4, 2011

What Amateur Radio Means To Me

On an average afternoon, while living in Forsyth, Montana, I was spending some quality time on the Ten-meter amateur radio voice sub-band calling, "CQ" and managing a run of stations.  Conditions were pretty good, as this was back in the peak of Cycle 22; I was working a pile-up as Montana was desired by many amateurs on the band.

I was having a conversation with a Canadian amateur radio operator who was telling me how happy he was in making contact with me, as I triggered some fond memories of Montana.  He began to tell me a short history of how he had to spend some time in Montana during World War II, to complete some training.  He was sent to Helena, as part of a special unit that was tasked as a joint American and Canadian Special Forces Unit that would, after training, head over to Europe for special assignments.

I made plenty of notes in my log book, as this was a unique story.  This elderly gentleman was full of enthusiasm as he expressed how he had made a special bond with one or two of the American soldiers, but has lost contact with them over the years since the end of the war.  Never-the-less, Helena and Montana held a special place in his heart. I made sure that I had his callsign, his mailing address, and any other information I could get well documented in my log.  We ended our conversation (a 'QSO' as a two-way radio contact is known in amateur radio Morse code short-hand) and bid each other best wishes.  I went on to have a number of additional contacts with other radio operators from various places in the world, that day.

The following day, conditions were much the same, and I again took to the air, calling for stations on the Ten-meter band.  As usual, I began to have many stations calling me, and I worked this eager pile-up, one station at a time.  I was willing to have short conversations with each station, too, as I don't like just giving out a quick signal report and then going to the next station.  I do enjoy a bit of a chat.  I like to get to know people.

After I had 'worked' a good number of calling stations, one amateur radio operator, an elderly gentleman, made a remark while talking with me that caught my attention: He commented that he had spent time in Helena, Montana, during World War II as part of a special unit known as "The Devil's Brigade".  I had chills run up my spine.

I mentioned to him that, just the day before, I had talked with a fellow from Canada who also spent time in Helena as part of a special unit.  I wondered out loud if it might have been the same unit.  He asked me who this fellow was, and I told him.  There was a bit of a pause, then, in a bit of an emotional voice, he repeated the Canadian's name back, a couple of times.  Then said, "I know him."  He then began to explain that this Canadian was his best friend in that unit, and how close they had become during their time together while serving in Europe.  But, how after the war, they somehow lost contact with each other.

Now, I was very excited and rather moved by this story.  What are the odds that I would meet these two best friends from World War II, that had lost contact with each other?  Of course, you know what I did next.  I made sure that this American hero now had the Canadian's callsign, address, and information as I had it from our conversation.  He was deeply moved and the emotion was evident on the sideband audio.

I learned many weeks later that, indeed, they contacted each other, after many many years.  This was a sweet and timely reunion for them.  And, I was the catalyst that enabled these two heroes to reconnect.

It is a moment like this that makes amateur radio communications worth every effort, headache, struggle, and investment worth my while.  To connect with others in meaningful ways, at some level, is priceless.  I never know, from contact to contact, what life I am touching, what new step of life I am enabling in the lives of those around me.  Amateur radio is more than just a hobby. It is a relational community affair.  Good will, and all that.  And, this is what amateur radio means to me.

73 de NW7US
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