May 28, 2007

Memorial Day.

WAC with flag

Picture source explained. More here. Memorial Day always makes me think of my parents, who are both dead, not that they died in a war, but they did meet in the Army, during WWII.

My first Memorial Day post:
My mother was a WWII veteran. She joined the Women's Army Corps for reasons she would never put in personal terms. I used to ask her, "Why did you join the Army?" I wanted to hear the details of a teenager who cared for her infant sister, named Hope, who was doomed by spina bifida, incapacitating the poor baby's mother with grief, and who went to college, at the University of Michigan, when she was only 16. I wanted to hear about how she had a great passion to leave Ann Arbor, where she had lived all her life, to have new adventures. But her answer was always devoid of a personal story. It was always: "You have to understand how it was for everyone at the time. There was a war."

My father was drafted into the Army after the end date of the war, so he was not, technically, a veteran. They are both dead now and so are among the many of their generation who did not live to see the [WWII] memorial. They met in the Army. My father had one of those Army office jobs, and so did my mother, who was transferred from working on battle fatigue cases to an office job when it was learned that she could type. My father had made some coffee in his office, and my mother went into the office attracted by the smell of coffee. They were married two weeks later. Personally, I owe my own life to the Army and the smell of coffee, but to be more like my mother, I shouldn't tell it as a personal story: There was a war. People did what had to be done.


hdhouse said...

Nicely said Ann. For all of us who had parents who went through the war and came back and tried so hard to make our lives good and full of hope.

SARA said...

This is a beautiful post.

"You have to understand how it was for everyone at the time. There was a war."...those words are very touching.

Dad Bones said...

Thanks for the post. My dad was WWII Army. Mom was a "Rosie the Riveter", and I was a War Baby, before the Boomers came along.

vet66 said...

Your parents were members of the "Greatest Generation!" My father (deceased) served in the Pacific Theater in the Navy. My Mom (deceased) wrote him letters while he was gone and will always remain his "dulce."

As do you and most others, we celebrate that generations love and patriotism. They taught those of us who take the time to listen and understand the value of Duty, Honor, Country!

To those who paid the ultimate sacrifice for liberty, I say "Thank You for standing up for what is right and reminding me that some things are worth fighting for."


RebeccaH said...

My parents knew each other casually all their lives. He went to war at eighteen, became a tailgunner in a B-17 over Italy, came home at war's end, dated my mother for a month, and married her. His life was difficult, but he never blamed any of it on the war, never, in fact, spoke of the war at all. He simply carried on, and so did she, God rest their souls.

PatCA said...

That's a perfect post for Memorial Day--beautiful, Ann.

Sometimes I fear that we now, saturated with selfhood, have lost that sense of dedication to something bigger than ourselves, to our detriment.

kight said...

Thank you for your post.

My Dad spent a long time training in Slidell, LA for the Signal Corps in the Army Air Corps. There he met my Mom. I was born after he returned from duty in Australia during the war.

sammy small said...

Nicely said. Your story has brought up memories of my Dad today. Thanks you for the post.

Although my Dad met my mother before the war, he was profoundly affected by it as a B-24 bomber copilot over Europe in 1943. He died a few years ago from a massive pneumonia infection.

As I sat in his hospital room two days before his passing, he slipped in and out of consciousness as the IV's numbed the pain. His last words were spoken in a semi-lucid dream state where he was shouting at the pilot to get the plane lined up properly for what was apparently a crash landing.

The affect of the war on veterans can be everlasting. Most of us today don't understand and will never experience something that profound. I stand in awe of all veterans and what the contributed to this country.

Jacques Albert said...

Thanks for passing on the lovely remembrance, Ann. My father was Navy; I rebelled by enlisting in the Army after early college graduation in 1968, first, to pique him a little, second, to protest the disloyal protesters infesting the sixties and seventies; some of these pests later became colleagues at colleges and universities where I taught.

One striking memory of mine is querying stories out of an elderly nurse at a hospital I worked at in the seventies who'd flown cargo planes for us in the Middle East during the war. So many of these stories from "quiet Americans" are yet to be told. Thanks again for another.

Jacques Albert, life member, VFW

David said...

Here are my stories:

By the way, as my father joined as an officer and a gentleman he spent 3 or 4 months learning how to suck up to admirals' wives and sail a sailboat. The latter gave me many fun vacations.

Don Surber said...

I'm so glad you're over that writing in the snow business.

Ruth Anne Adams said...
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hdhouse said...

Ann, I hope you don't mind but Whitman just seems right:

July 4th.—THE WEATHER to-day, upon the whole, is very fine, warm, but from a smart rain last night, fresh enough, and no dust, which is a great relief for this city. I saw the parade about noon, Pennsylvania avenue, from Fifteenth street down toward the capitol. There were three regiments of infantry, (I suppose the ones doing patrol duty here,) two or three societies of Odd Fellows, a lot of children in barouches, and a squad of policemen. (A useless imposition upon the soldiers—they have work enough on their backs without piling the like of this.) As I went down the Avenue, saw a big flaring placard on the bulletin board of a newspaper office, announcing “Glorious Victory for the Union Army!” Meade had fought Lee at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, yesterday and day before, and repuls’d him most signally, taken 3,000 prisoners, &c. (I afterwards saw Meade’s despatch, very modest, and a sort of order of the day from the President himself, quite religious, giving thanks to the Supreme, and calling on the people to do the same.) I walk’d on to Armory hospital—took along with me several bottles of blackberry and cherry syrup, good and strong, but innocent. Went through several of the wards, announc’d to the soldiers the news from Meade, and gave them all a good drink of the syrups with ice water, quite refreshing—prepar’d it all myself, and serv’d it around. Meanwhile the Washington bells are ringing their sundown peals for Fourth of July, and the usual fusilades of boys’ pistols, crackers, and guns.

Just once to write like that. Just once.

TMink said...

Rebecca, my father flew missions over Italy in a B-17 as well. He was 16, having lied about his age to get off the farm and into the war. He did not speak of it much as they locked one kid who did the same in Levenworth prison.

But thank God for men and women like dad who stopped the Holocaust, the Nazis, and Imperial Japan. And thank God for the GI bill that paid for dad to go to college and medical school. A lot of healthy babies, adults in their 50s through their teens, should be thankful as well.


David said...

RIP Lt. Steven C. Drake
Platoon Leader, Company C, 196th Light Infantry Batallion
KIA January 6, 1968
Distinguished Service Cross

David said...

There is a war now also.

Big Mike said...

My father was a senior majoring in engineering when Pearl Harbor happened. As a Land Grant university the University of Illinois had mandatory ROTC in those days, so when he graduated in the spring he received his diploma, was commissioned as a 2nd lieutenant in the Corps of Engineers, and married my mother during a whirlwind 3 day period after courting her (how quaint the term these days!) during all four years of his studies. He served in North Africa and Europe while she worked in a defense plant in a neighboring town. There was a war on; everyone did their part whether it was serving in uniform, planting a Victory Garden, or a woman doing what used to be a man's job in a factory.

He won a Silver Star. When I asked him what he had done, he inevitably said it was "nothing." Then after his death I found the citation for his medal. My God! I don't think today's United States deserves to have someone that courageous in its armed forces, but perhaps seventy years ago it did.

They're both gone now. Their families were poor before the Great Depression but Dad was able to work his way through college and after VJ day they settled down to make a better life for their children. I don't think we Baby Boomers can say that we've made the world better for the Millennial generation than what we found when we graduated college.