On Memorial Day we are reminded of the thousands of military men and women who perished for our freedom. I was touched this morning by the Today Show’s story about young widows of military men who have banded together to help one another and make the most of their now solitary lives.
I am among the lucky ones. I haven’t lost a family member through military service even though my father, grandfather and uncles all served on foreign shores. All of them came home whole. We were blessed. So today I honor my father for his service in the army. He fought in World War II and the Korean Affair, but he never spoke about either. There were no war stories and there was no mention of what he saw or felt. I was left to wonder.
I know he was among those enlisted men who was commissioned during the war and I’ve heard my mother talk of how difficult it was for him to adapt to the change from “one of the guys” to leading the guys. I also know that he learned to cook while in the army; yet her never discussed the difficulties or the true significance of his time. I never even knew how he managed to come home one night from a foreign town wearing the wooden shoes that eventually set on our fireplace mantel instead of his army boots! I’ll bet that would have made a fine story.
At the end of active duty, my dad remained in the reserves and each summer he spent his vacation with other reservists during two weeks of hot summer camp. I don’t even know what he did there other than sweat!
In 2000 when my dad knew he had little time left on this earth, he asked my husband to fetch an old shoe box from his closet. The box held a military belt with a leather holster inscribed with U S. The holster contained a well kept Colt revolver that I had never seen before. My dad told us that he carried this in war time and that his father carried it in World War I. Now it hangs in our locked gun case as an ominous reminder of what was and what remains today. We are a country that fights to protect humanity and continues to sacrifice for the common good.
I now believe that my dad kept his stories to himself for many reasons. In particular, he did not seek sympathy or admiration for what he had done. He just did what most other young men did during that day and time so long ago. I also believe that to talk is to remember and he didn’t want to relive those desperate war days. He simply went on with life and left them behind as best he could. He must have dealt quietly with his own hell of memories and perhaps it’s best that I never knew what he experienced.
Thanks Papaw. I miss you.