Monday, May 28, 2012

Memorial Day and my father's legacy

Flags covering the National Mall. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Americanflags.jpg

Note: Today is OCD Monday, but more importantly, in the United States it is Memorial Day. So this post is mainly about what Memorial Day means to me.

A year before my father died, I visited him and my mother on Memorial Day. As I walked up the steps of the deck in the back of their house, my father came to the door to greet me.
“Happy Memorial Day,” I said. “I don’t actually know if you’re supposed to tell people that.”
My father smiled and said, “Well, I’m just grateful to have made it home.”
This was 1996. My father had been discharged from the Army on Dec. 25, 1945. Fifty-one years after he “made it home,” he was still grateful.
On Memorial Day, I, along with millions of others, think about the soldiers that didn’t make it home. I think of the families grieving for the child, sibling, parent, relative or friend that didn’t return home from service.
I also think of my father on Memorial Day, and his gratitude and his service to his country during World War II.
My father was drafted in 1942. He was a young farmer who had lived in rural Central Virginia all his life.
He was pulled from basic training before he was finished in order to begin training as a medic.
His company was eventually sent to the Pacific Theatre.
He was on the island of Peleliu on Sept. 30, 1944, in combat when he was shot in the arm. He recovered on a hospital ship and then returned to combat.
When I was growing up, my father didn’t talk specifically about his time in service. We met some of his former Army buddies and their families, and he told general stories of life in the Army, but not what it was like for him.
My father was not a person to talk about emotions.
Have you ever read “The Greatest Generation,” by Tom Brokaw? It tells the stories of people who returned from war in 1945 and took up their lives with purpose and resolve?
My father was like that.
When he was in his early 70s, I asked him if he would write down his life story for me. To my surprise, he agreed, so I bought a notebook for him and he wrote.
He needed a second notebook to finish.
In those written words, he was much more open about what it was like for him going into battle. I found out things about him that I never would have known otherwise.
So on this Memorial Day, I think about him and his gratitude, and I think, how can I be less grateful for life?
To my readers who are in the United States, may you have a safe Memorial Day. And to all my readers, may we be grateful for every bit of time we have.

  What does Memorial Day mean to you?

19 comments:

  1. That is so beautiful that your father wrote down his life story for you. What a treasure.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Elizabeth, It is a treasure. I want to scan the pages (he wrote in pencil and it's already fading some) and transcribe it too.

      Delete
  2. What a beautiful tribute to your father and all those who have served our country. And what a treasure to have your father's written words.....

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thank you, Janet. It's been 15 years since my father died, and it's time I did more with the writing he left.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Tina,
    This is very poignant and what a lovely treasure you have in your father's stories. That is truly a gift your father left you. Great post!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Tracy, Thank you! It is a gift that I want to honor.

      Delete
  5. What a lovely post! I am very grateful for the freedom I enjoy because of the sacrifice of so many men and women. It is a privilege that I try not to take for granted. I especially appreciate it as I get to talk (and write) openly about my faith and my OCD.

    What a great idea to have your dad write his life story. I think it's a lot easier for some people to write things down instead of talking about them. I bet it was cathartic for him to get some of that out.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sunny, Thank you! I think it did help him, and he wanted to share his story. I, too, am grateful for the freedoms that we have that others fought and died for.

      Delete
  6. How WONDERFUL that he wrote his story down! So many life stories disappear in the sands of time.

    On this Memorial Day, I honor my grandfather, Robert Stein, my father-in-law Norman Feldman and his sister Roz, all of whom served our country honorably.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Nadine, You're right--so many stories disappear with the death of those involved. My dad wrote down things that he never told us verbally, so those stories would have been lost.

      It's a good day to remember those who served and sacrificed for our country.

      Delete
  7. What a lovely gift your father gave you. I saved some of my fathers letters that he wrote to me while my husband and I were deployed with the military and they mean so much.
    So today I honor my husband who is a (23 yr)Veteran, my son who is currently serving in Guam, my son-in-law who is a Marine F-18 Fighter Pilot, and my nephew who is in Afghanistan.
    Along with the laying of wreaths and ceremonies to show them honor, I hope Americans will support our soldiers who are coming home with disabling injuries both mental and physical, and support continued medical care for them.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Krystal, You have a lot of family with military connections. That's wonderful. I agree with you--may be continue to support our military members when they come home, especially when it comes to medical care, including mental health care.

      Delete
  8. How wonderful that you have two notebooks of his memories! A beautiful post today.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Beautiful post. I'm so glad your dad filled two notebooks with memories. What a wonderful idea you had!!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for stopping by and for your comment, Trisha Faye!

      Delete
  10. "I'm grateful to have made it home."
    Exactly.
    My uncles were veterans of WWII and my dad a veteran of the Korean War. I'm glad they made it home, too. One of my uncles would never talk about his time there. War is hell, and I thank God for what all veterans do and sacrifice for our country and for our world.

    ReplyDelete

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.