Like most of the veterans from the Greatest Generation, Dad had not been one to share the events of his war service. Nor had he discussed his feelings and thoughts in our presence.
I will never forget that day when he let down his guard.
* * * *
It was July of 1999 and I invited my husbands extended family to celebrate the 4th of July with us at a barbecue in our back yard.
"Dad" was in the 28th year of his fourth marriage. He'd been a father to his step-daughter and step-son ... something he'd not been allowed to do with his own two children.
I called him several weeks before the event and made a special request.
"Dad," I asked, "Would you be the guest of honor at the party and tell us about your experience in World War II and the Korean Conflict?"
His response indicated reluctance, but I was not giving in easily.
"I know WR is looking forward to hearing your story."
I wasn't really lying. I knew that WR knew nothing of his dad's time in the armed forces. I also knew that in his heart he felt cheated out of his fathers relationship, time, and love. There was no doubt that WR would embrace my appeal.
The weather was gorgeous, the food was exceptional, and the children and grandchildren of his two families enjoyed the camaraderie that one expects of an Independence Day gathering.
Dad pulled out his war memoirs handwritten on a yellow tablet.
We sat quietly - even the very small step-grandchild - as he read about joining the Navy.
After flunking the V-12 unit, Dad switched to Sonar School in San Diego, CA. We heard of his journey to New Hebrides and Tulagi, and dropping depth charges that may have hit the target.
He convoyed to Bouganville with supplies and troops.
|After "10 days R&R in New Zealand, beautiful country - but on the way we ran into the rim of a typhoon." |
He spent months on mine sweeping duty near New Caledonia, performed search and rescue off the coast of Guam, and towards the end of the war served harbor duty in the Philippines.
The boat's trip home was delayed twice by a broken shaft. He and and his fellow conquering heroes arrived in San Francisco harbor after a weary journey at the end of tug boat tow line.
|September 1950: |
"This was tough, almost unbearable. Married --2 kids, WR Jr & Sherry, and on my birthday - Sept 2 - I got orders in the mail and was ordered to report to Pier 91 in Seattle in one week for Korea."
Dads voice broke and he wept as he told us of his agony in leaving his family; and then came the loss of his good friend and cousin Robert in combat (Battle of Chosin Resevoir). Twice his ship ferried South Korean guerrilla fighters into northern territory where they were massacred. He felt complicit.
Other than one memorable raid that blew up a railroad tunnel and slowed the enemy supply line, most of his long and lonely nights were spent stationed on the sonar gear, creeping along the coastline "doing my pinging."
His boat was eventually relieved by another A.P.D and they "came home...was discharged...life went on. That's my story -- WR, Sr.
I asked him if I could keep the sheets from his lined yellow tablet. The paper not only has his words, in his own pen... but is punctuated with his tears. I knew it would be a priceless family keepsake.
Dad died of cardiac arrest in December 2002.
Thank you, Grace (Mama Rehama), for choosing a memorable Independence Day Holiday as the subject for this week's Fun Monday.