A Woman's Perspective On The Times We Live In


May 28, 2012

Memorial Day Tribute: My Dad

     My father was of "that" generation; the exceptional period of existence that is described in our present age as "The Greatest."  December 7, 1941 changed the course of his life, as it did so many like him.  Tom Brokaw memorialized them in their own words, and their stories touched the soul of America.
     It had always been my intention to write a fitting tribute to my father, who was such a complex, and at times, difficult man to understand.  Born in 1925, he was a mid-West farm boy who, at the inexperienced age of 17, answered his nation's call after the horror of Pearl Harbor.  He served valiantly as a tail-gunner in the U.S. Navy's Pacific fleet of PV-1 Ventura's.
     He was older when he married and began a family.  Growing up, I didn't know much about his experiences or the war years.  It wasn't until he died in 2007, that my siblings and I learned a little more of this formative period of his life.  He left us a DVD that he had produced himself a few years earlier; an amateur performance of him seated in my mother's wingback chair, video camera focused on a still active septuagenarian, who talked about growing up on the family farm in Illinois during the Depression, and described that fateful day at Pearl Harbor.
     He then fondly remembered his basic training at the Great Lakes Naval Training Station near Chicago, and then moved on to his first job as a high school coach and history teacher (thanks to the GI Bill) in a dusty little town in Colorado.  It was there he met my mother, who worked in the local pharmacy.
     In his home-made video, he proceeded to give our family's history, verbally recording the births of each of his five children, and recalling how he and my mother spent his retirement years, which included many reunions with his "Navy buddies".  He talked little of his wartime activities or the impact they had on his life and the country.
Squadron VPB-136 (my father is kneeling, far right)
     When he died, at the age of 82, this video meant the world to us, and I viewed it many times as I contemplated what I would write for his eulogy. And I grieved over the lost opportunity to truly celebrate what I felt he had contributed to our country's history.  I was left with only a few WWII mementos of my Dad:  a photograph of him looking young and innocent in his Navy dress blues; a photo of his flight crew in front of their plane; and his poplin flight suit and fur-lined leather flying cap.  I wished I had asked him more about his service in the military; and I started doing some research and was overjoyed to find an online reference to his squadron's activities in the Aleutian Islands.  I also recognized a familiar name I had heard him mention only once ... "Attu" .... referring to a transfer to this Alaska base for training in use of air-to-ground missiles.  The online diary of his squadron covered from October of 1943 to May of 1945.  I felt a door had been opened to me and I could share, in some small way, those lost war years and how he spent them.
     So while I never heard this part of my father's life from his own lips, there was one aspect of him that I knew well:  his patriotism and love of country.  We requested a Naval Honor Guard at his graveside service, and it was a moment I will always treasure.  His service to our great Nation had not been forgotten, and the Navy's own paid him proper respect.  I proudly display the folded flag presented at his funeral, alongside framed photos of an innocent, yet proud Mid-west farm boy.
Returned to home base at NAS Whidbey Island, WA
(my father is second from right)
     And now I fear that only two generations past the life of this honorable man, there is an attempt to alter the "heart and soul" of the American character.  The hopes and dreams of my father to provide a better world in which his children could work hard and flourish, has degenerated into an "entitlement" society, and one that no longer embraces the freedoms and liberties he fought for.
     He was proud to be called an American and he honored the heritage of those who came before him. Today, our leaders, and the rest of the world, dare to challenge our "exceptionalism".  What they don't understand is this:  there is a vital spark that lives in the American conscience; a force that I believe is Divine and is encased in the very marrow of our bones.  We are a nation that was founded by self-reliant individuals, who believed in the ability of the common man to better his lot in life, if given the freedom from tyrannical and oppressive restraints.
     So, this Memorial Day, I wanted to honor the memory of my father, and the hundreds of thousands of men and women like him, who have answered the call of duty from the greatest nation on Earth.  I pray that their commitment and allegiance to God and country has not been wasted.  I pray that we will once again hear the collective voices of our ancestors and reclaim our national pride.
     Today, I salute our Military, and extend my gratitude and admiration for your loyalty and unselfish service.  Happy Memorial Day!

Today I celebrate Memorial Day in honor of my father, but I also want to extend heartfelt thanks to others who have served in combat and graced my life:  my uncle Robert Major (WW II); the heroes at Fischer House (Ed, Justin, Dan, Joe, Ching, Miguel and Nilssa - Iraq and Afghanistan) - I don't see your torn bodies; just your selfless sacrifice and honor; and my new friend Joe (Vietnam) who has blessed me with his encouragement.  I am indebted to all of you!

Jeremiah 3:19      "I myself said, ‘How gladly would I treat you like my children and give you a pleasant land, the most beautiful inheritance of any nation.’ ..."

2 comments:

  1. Thank you Belle for sharing your Dad's history and how he served his country. I am thankful for my own Father serving our country, my brothers and nephews and all the friends that went to Vietnam and those who have served in the past,present and future. I feel blessed to live in the United States. I hope that others will realize that we're on the brink of losing a lot of our freedoms that those very men and women fought for and we need to be sure that we make a stand and be active and bring our country back to what it was and not to let those people who lived and died for the freedoms that we've had be lost and forgotten. I say to all of them..."I appreciate all that you have given to us and I want you to know that I do care and will always care and appreciate that". Thank you. May God always bless this country with "His" kind of warriors!

    Sincerely,
    Lisa

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    1. Yes, Lisa! We owe them all more than we can ever repay! I wish I could personally tell each of them what their sacrifice has meant to me. I pray that God will protect them and reward them for their service to our country and to Him. Thank you for your heartfelt thoughts!

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