Friday, November 11, 2011

Thank you is not enough

Today we celebrate Veteran's Day in our country. Many of us will stop for a moment and offer thanks then go on with our days. Some will attend services or participate in parades. I must admit that I am one that will stop in thought then go on with my day. I have this photo in my living room of my father in his dress blues from the Navy. I gaze at it and think about that young man in that photo and what he did and saw all those years ago.
You see, I am blessed to have a father who served in WWII. He served on a Destroyer Escort, the USS Snyder. He did what many young men did at that time, he stopped what he was doing as a civilian and took his position as a navy man - working in the engine room as a mechanic - motor mach as he called it. He saw quite a few things while on his tour. He was stationed just off of Japan after the big bombs were dropped. He never made it to land but I am sure of its impact. He didn't continue any career in the Navy after the war. He did just what many other Veterans did and came home and picked up where he left off. He married my mom and they began their lives together.
My father passed away June 4, 2002 after a long battle with COPD. I think it started on that ship all those years ago. He came home to work in the train yards in a small town called Beech Grove, Indiana. He was a gifted wood worker and didn't know about today's precautions for chemicals from paints and strippers. He worked several jobs as the head of household but he always able to provide for a family of 5 children.
After he passed away, I started seriously working on my family genealogy. I hunted for dates and photos to feed my curiosity. I couldn't find much of my father's Navy life in my mother's hope chest. She had cut down some parts of his old navy to use for my oldest brother for clothing. I am sure other parts were just worn out. My parents grew up in the depression and learned to use all that they had wisely.
My father really never shared any war stories with his family. During the late part of his life, he did open up more but we never heard anything that he held deep in his soul. I know that a torpedo narrowly missed the bow of his ship during a battle. I know that he hated rice. While being stationed off of Japan that was most of the rations on the ship. I still remember him being very angry towards Japan even during the opening ceremonies of the Winter Olympics held in Japan over 10 years ago. Again, so much I will never know but I do understand. I think he saw some things too horrific to even speak. Like many WWII veterans, those stories and experiences are lost to all of us. According to my mother, he never really had any post war issues when he came home but he was a private man so I will never really know much.
There is one thing that I will always be in complete respect of. After my father's funeral, we were reading the registry book. One of his shipmates came to pay their last respects after all of these years My oldest brother had the opportunity to speak with him, however, the rest of us missed it - including my mother. That spoke so much more than my father ever said. They went through quit a lot out there in the world oceans. Over 50 years later, that bond still continued even though they probably never spoke after they walked off that ship.
I am grateful to all of my family that has served. I have uncles who served in WWII. I have a father-in-law that served in peace time. I have a brother, brother-in-law and cousins that have also all stepped up and served during peace. I know that peace time serving it not what is says. They are protecting our peace. I am grateful for them stepping away from their families and doing what they did.
Most of all, I am grateful for my father. You have taught me more than any person could, especially my values. Only a man with your background could do that. I am a strong person because of you. Thanks for stepping up all those years ago and protecting your little girl. For that, thanks will never be enough.

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