Friday, November 10, 2006

Veterans Day: A Daughter Remembers

My father died last year at 79. Like many men his age, he was a veteran of WWII. Had I been close to him, I could tell his story properly. Instead, I have only bits and pieces.

I suppose his motivation in joining up was the patriotism of those days or the chance to get out of a small Alabama town where the only future lay in a job at the cotton mill. Part of a family of 11 children, he saw brothers going off to war and joined the Marines the first chance he got, despite being underage. Later, he switched over to the Air Force and flew on airplanes but not as a pilot. His job was as a mechanic. I’m not sure where he was stationed. I know he went on missions to Japan for when he returned to the little country house he grew up in, he brought with him a fancy silk pillow and a complete set of “Made in Occupied Japan” china for my grandma.

As soon as my mother graduated high school, she caught the first train out of Oklahoma and headed to Washington D.C. to work in the War Department. That’s where the two met. He, a dashing young soldier with blond hair and blue eyes. She, a young country girl who sent everything she could afford back home for her family. In 1950 they married, and I was born in Washington a couple of years later. Not long afterwards, my father took us to Alabama and got out of the service.

He was never the same as when he left home for the war my aunt tells me. Can I imagine that something happened during the war that changed him forever? Would it have happened anyway? It’s a mystery that died with him.

I do know that on this day for honoring the men and women who have served our country honorably, I recognize that they have made a great sacrifice, some with their lives. While many have been wounded with bullets and bombs and have healed, others carry forever wounds that do not heal.

This, I believe, was my father’s story.


Don said...

I’m continually grateful now that both of my parents have gone to their reward for the times I sat and listened to stories of their lives, but I regret that I didn’t ask for more details and record them in some manner.

My Dad was in WW1 but wasn't sent to Europe because his father had emigrated from Germany by deserting from the German army and stowing away on a cattle boat to come here, and apparently the government didn’t trust those of German parentage to be loyal to the USA.

As we honor our living veterans and the memory of those who are deceased, as a veteran myself, I feel that we should also honor their families and loved ones who supported them from at home and often had to take up the slack caused by the absence of their service member. “They also serve, who only stand and wait.”

Sheila said...

Thanks Don for your thoughts. You are right about the families too. So many young parents must be both mom and dad while the parent soldier is off serving in situations that are dangerous. They deserve any help we can give them.

Marion said...

My father suffered from PTSD, and Gray's father, too. It forever changed both of them, WWII did...and I don't think they were unique.

Thanks for this post, Sheila.

Sheila said...

Marion, I know that back then PTSD was not a term yet in our vocabulary. I guess the closest thing to it was "shell shock." My father had been diagnosed with so many mental conditions that it was impossible for me to say for sure what the demon really was. But I do think the War had to have triggered whatever went wrong.

Janey Loree said...

Hi Sheila, What a wonderful tribute to your family's sacrifice to keep us safe along with the comments above. Since both of my parents served in the Army, I have considered myself an Army brat all my life. Well, my dad was still serving when I was born at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, TX. They didn't serve during wartime, but my parents were ready if a war broke out. I for one am thankful for ALL the sacrifices made to keep us a free nation under God! I will forever get a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes when the "Star Spangled Banner" is sung, the "Pledge of Allegiance" cited, and when I hear of the sacrifice that are being made!

Sheila said...

Janey, thanks for your comments. We share being born on bases: I was born at Bolling AFB.

Kilroy_60 said...

Yesterday I went to the gas station. The car parked in front of me had a World War II Veteran license plate. I went up to him said I wanted to thank him for his service. He warmly shook my hand and thanked me. {This is something I tend to do with veterans} He said that people never say anything. He was in his mid-80's and told me he served in the Pacific through the entire period of the war. I told him TheSpecialOne's father was in the Pacific as well...and that he doesn't talk about his service. His words were simple and to the point. "Son, it wasn't pretty," he said. I wish more people would take that little second to say - as John Prine writes - "Hello in there."

Sheila said...

Yes, there are fewer and fewer of these veterans around. They are a special breed in my book.