Did joe become a solider in A Long Way From Chicago?
Yes, Joe did become a soldier.
The last chapter of the book, entitled "The Troop Train," takes place in 1942. Joe sees in the dawning of World War II a chance "to realize (his) old dream of flying," and he hopes that the war lasts long enough "to make a flyer out of (him), and so it did." When he becomes of age, Joe joins up at Fort Sheridan with the Army Air Corps. Before he is allowed to go to flight school, however, he is assigned to basic training at Camp Leonard Wood. In order to get to his destination, Joe finds that he will have to ride a troop train, a train that carried soldiers, which will take him right through his grandmother's town, "sometime in the night."
Since his grandmother had never had a phone, Joe sends her a telegram to inform her that his train would be passing through her town, even though it would not stop. As it turns out, the train is running late, and by the time it gets to Grandma Dowdel's town, it is almost dawn. In the train, Joe is not sleeping, and when the train slows down past the depot, he sees his grandmother's house "lit up like a jack-o'-lantern," and there, at her door, stands Grandma, "watching through the watches of the night for the train to pass through." Grandma cannot know which car Joe is riding in, but she waves "big at all the cars," just hoping he will see. Even though he knows she cannot see him, Joe waves back. He is a soldier, all grown up, but in the final scene, there is the sense that no matter where he goes, the love of his eccentric, exceptional grandmother will sustain him.