I finally read Tom Brokaw’s book, The Greatest Generation. It gives honor to the humble and hardworking who survived the great depression and then fought a major World War. This generation has insight into life’s priorities that few of us garner. It was the outcome of much deprivation and self-sacrifice for the greater good.
Each Greatest Generation vignette was a replica of the chapters I heard in real life. Dad was active in the veteran organization, Submarine Vets of WWII. I attended an occasional function. By the time I was able to soak up the living history, WWII had been over for 35 years. Enough years had passed that the extreme emotions associated with war memories had receded. WWII vets were starting to talk about their experiences. I was on the front lines to hear their stories.
But, there are other great heroes in my eyes that come from a later generation. Hear me out….
In May 2008, the new, sleek, black submarine, USS North Carolina, was christened at the Wilmington, NC, seaport, just two miles from my home. Tickets for this event were procured through Wilmington’s local subvets chapter. I explained the situation of my father’s service in WWII and his recent widower-hood.
We had a vellum, white Washington DC invitation in the mailbox within days.
My husband and I, by coincidence, met the same naval captain, Mark Davis, and his wife at a social event in Wilmington.
I was ecstatic. In my less than mild manner, I explained to CAPT Davis and his wife that my dad was a WWII subvet and he had toured USS NC the day before the christening in 2008. Captain & Mrs. Davis were so very gracious to patiently listen to my stuttering. My heart warmed even more because of their appreciation of my father’s service.
Captain Davis took my father’s address and hand wrote a letter to him. He commended my father’s patriotism. When dad received that letter he was incredulous, “He called me a patriot! I didn’t do anything but work in a dirty old engine room.” Of course, like all the honorees in the Greatest Generation book, dad is self-depricating. He just did his duty. And to me and Mark Davis that makes my dad a patriot!
Captain Davis, Sir, I salute you for honoring an old man. The time you took to write simple words in a letter made my father beam with pride. It was a moment of happiness as he still endured the grief of my mom’s loss.
I also salute those who take the time to shake hands with the old guys who now don the WWII VET baseball cap.
Not long after dad received the letter, I escorted him to Hawaii to visit his 90 year old sister. (It was too long of a journey for an 83 year old to do alone. I’m full of self-sacrifice *sarcasm*.) Dad wore his WWII VET ballcap the entire journey through several airports. I was surprised and thrilled at the great number of citizens, including children urged on by their parents, who stopped my father and shook his hand with thanks. Normally socially shy, dad beamed and spoke with authority.
The affirmation and gratitude offered these men is due them and is consolation (if only a small bit) on this side of the veil for their sacrifices. The youngest of the WWII vets are in their late 80’s. They won’t be with us for much longer.
Memorial Day is about honoring those who were lost due to combat. Although, I speak of honoring the living, in honoring them we are also paying homage to their comrades who have fallen.
Thank you, my friends and readers, for obliging me to stray from OysterBed7’s normal focus. If you would do my family the honor of praying for my father, he isn’t doing well at the time of this writing. Thank you from the depths of my heart.
My Parents were FEISTY.