I entered a blog contest. The “judge” bought a green plaid jacket at the Goodwill, and when she got home she found a clean folded kleenex and a scap of paper with the name Tom Wojciechowski written on it. Our assignment was to write a story about how the name came to be in the pocket. Here was my entry, that was posted last Friday: (The winner has not been declared yet).
Tom Wojciechowski. A name that will live in infamy. A name that came to mean the world to me, in a time when the date itself would live in infamy.
It was 1943 and my old friend Bob Hope talked me into going on tour with the girls. So Betty Grable, Marlene Deitrich and I jumped a cargo plane to go entertain our troops in the middle of WW II. It was a whirlwind in more ways than one.
It was after a show, and the girls and I loved to give the troops an extra surprise and dance with as many of those fine lads as possible. Even though our feet were hurting in our high heels, and our stockings were starting to sag, we put as much energy as we could into jitterbugging along.
It was one of those nights when I met Tom Wojciechowski. A tall, skinny G.I. with the bluest eyes I had ever seen. He shyly approached and asked his buddy if he could cut in. Boy that kid could jitterbug! After a few rounds on the dance floor we adjourned to the makeshift bar for a cool drink. And he started to talk.
We talked for hours and hours, long after the dance was over. He was the most interesting young man I had ever met. I admired his courage in face of such adversity in the war.
All too soon, the sun came up, and it was time for him to go. He took out a scrap of paper and wrote his name, Tom Wojciechowski. He carefully folded into a clean Kleenex and handed it to me. I put it into my jacket pocket, and we both went on our way. Me to rest a bit before my next show that night, and he to go on a mission, his “call to arms”.
That evening, I searched the crowd for his face. I did not see him. I asked about him later at the dance. One of his comrades told me sorrowfully that Tom never came back from his mission. He was MIA. My heart clenched at that thought, and I fingered the scrap of paper still residing in my pocket. I swore that I would look at his name, Tom Wojciechowski, every day, until he came home.
That scrap of paper went everywhere with me for years and years, always in my pocket, in a fresh Kleenex. He never came home. In 1955 when I sang Somewhere Over the Rainbow, I silently dedicated the song to him, Tom Wojciechowski, a name I never fogot. My name? Judy Garland.