Tuesday, May 21, 2013

WWII Letters Make for Fascinating Book

Destination Unknown: Adventures of a WWII American Red Cross Girl

By LeOna Cox + Kathleen Cox

Available from Amazon.com for $15.00

Published by Kathleen Cox, www.kathleencox.com

Book reviewed by Linda Goodman

This book, through letters written to her family and lovingly put together by her daughter Kathleen, shares the story of LeOna's Cox's time working for the American Red Cross during World War II. As I read the book, I realized how much I miss the ancient art of hand written letters, and why I cherish my father's old letters so much: they are something personal to hold onto, something touched and touching. As I read LeOna's letters, I felt as thought they had been written to me.

In 1943 LeOna Cox, a selfless young lady from Minnesota who put the needs of others before her own, left her job as a teacher of business studies at Allegheny College in Meadville, PA to go to work overseas with the Red Cross. While others got seasick on the journey to an unknown destination, LeOna saw the bright side of this adventurous excursion and stubbornly decided to have fun. “People hate me for enjoying myself when most of them are so miserable,” she confides. Talk about seeing the glass half full!

During World War II, the Red Cross sought out college-educated girls of good reputation who were 27 years of age or older. At its peak, the Red Cross ran close to 2,000 recreational services facilities overseas, staffed by 5,000 Red Cross workers and more than 100,000 volunteers.

According to this book, Red Cross Girls felt that their greatest gift was “compassionate listening.” LeOna certainly had that gift and used it to good effect: had it not been for her quick thinking and compassionate listening skills (as well as her willingness to put herself in harm's way), a distraught young man from Iowa would have killed a fellow soldier. This young woman deserved a medal for bravery.

There is never a dull moment in LeOna's story. In the midst of a super busy schedule, she has numerous adventures: a visit to a dentist who uses a drill powered by a bicycle; an invasion of locusts; and true love that leads to a most magical wedding, in spite of family opposition.

There is plenty of heartbreak, as well. War, after all, does result in the loss of life, especially cruel when among the fallen are those you know and have come to love.

G.K. Chesterton, the English poet, wrote that “men fight not because they hate what is in front of them but because they love what is behind them.” Red Cross girls, like LeOna, reminded these brave men of the home they were fighting for. Her story is one of courage and strength that you will not soon forget.

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