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)|
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)
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.’ ..."