Monday, May 31, 2010

Okay, so this one time?

by Susan Sey

Today is Memorial Day. Summer is now officially open for business. Up here in the north land, Memorial Day is when the swimming pools open up. It's when public parks turn on the drinking fountains & put out the portapotties. It's when we throw caution to the wind and finally plant the darn tomatoes, late season blizzards be damned.

It's also the day our nation sets aside to pay tribute to the men and women who've died while serving in our armed forces.

This is not a surprise to me. Nor should it be at the end of my What Memorial Day Means to Me list. My dad served in a National Guard unit in the sixties. My Uncle Harry was Air Force. My grandpa served the Army in WWI. My father-in-law spent his entire career in the Air Force, and my brother-in-law flew fighter jets for the Navy. My Uncle Bill was...well, he was colorful. As I believe a lot of sailors are. But they all came through their service --thank God--healthy & whole.

And they brought stories with them when they came home. Lord, the stories these men brought home. My Uncle Bill especially. When we were kids we never got tired of hearing the one where he was standing guard on some ship & did the whole "Halt, who goes there?" routine on a superior officer named Marvel. A captain, as it happened. Captain Marvel.

Uncle Bill: "Halt! Who goes there?"

Captain Marvel: "Captain Marvel."

UB: "Riiiiiiight. Really, now. Who goes there?"

CM, with strained patience: "Captain. Marvel."

UB, skeptically: "Mmm-hmm. Mmmm-hmm. Captain Marvel?"

CM: "That's right."

Thoughtful pause.

UB: "Can I be Superman?"

Apparently, they really do make you peel potatoes for mouthing off in the military. That's not just Beetle Bailey stuff. At least according to my Uncle Bill, who--admittedly--wasn't the most reliable of sources. We were never sure when we were kids where the line was between fact & fiction when it came to his stories, but it hardly mattered. That wasn't the point. It was all about the story and the picture he painted with his words and that three-pack-a-day-and-a-shot-of-whiskey voice.

Now when most people die, their friends and relatives tell stories about them at the funeral. When my Uncle Bill died, we told stories about his stories. It was a powerful reminder to me of how important stories are. They're an honor and a tribute, a temporary recreation of something fleeting and human. They're a kind of magic, really. And I can't think of a better way to recognize the service and sacrifice of our soldiers than by performing that particular magic in their honor.

It's war story day in the Lair! Pull up a log, sit around our virtual campfire, have a beer or a soda or a s'more and tell us about your favorite soldier. I'll bet I'm not the only one with an Uncle Bill hanging out in the family tree. Come on--share!

72 comments:

Virginia said...

Are you coming my way today!

Anna Campbell said...

Hey, Virginia, congrats on the chook!

Susan, love your post. ANZAC Day is our day for remembering those who served our country in the military. It's 25th April - actually the anniversary of a defeat which I think says something about the national character.

Love the Captain Marvel story. Even if it's not true, I want it to be!

No direct descendants in the military but the man my father was named after was a WWII flying ace who was killed on a training flight up in North Queensland. He and his wife basically brought Dad up and I'm always so sorry I didn't know him. He sounded like a wonderful man. I had a lot of uncles by marriage who served in WWII and a couple of cousins who went to Vietnam.

Virginia said...

Let me see my grandfather was in the army during WWI, my dad was in the army at the end of WWII and my husband was in the air force back in the 70's. I am sure there is more but these are all I can think of right now, also FIL was in the army!

PinkPeony said...

Hi Susan!

My dad says he was the only guy in his platoon who liked canned spinach. He ate a lot of spinach when he was in the Army. My uncle was a ball turret gunner in the Pacific during WWII. He got appendicitis the night before his crew had to fly out on a sortie and needed an emergency operation. His crew didn't return to the ship. My late friend, Jack, was a Marine in Iwo Jima. He had two silver stars for bravery. He'd gone back under enemy fire and pulled wounded Marines to safety. I asked him if he was scared at the time and he said he was already wounded and didn't expect to survive so he didn't have anything to lose. And then he shrugged and said, "Girlie, that's the way the pickle squirts." :)

An American flag, which flew over Saddam's Al-Faw palace, hangs in front of my house this weekend. It was given to me by a Navy pilot, one of my care package contacts. I pray that he comes home safe.

Suzanne Welsh said...

ah, Susan, I can hear your Uncle Bill right now and am not the bit surprised he'd ask Captain Marvel if he could be Superman...something you'd surely do if YOU had the chance, hehehe.

My Dad serve his duty in Germany during the Korean War. According to Daddy, he basically spent his military stint sampling the beer from one end of Bavaria to another. He's also the one who taught me to curse in German. hehehe

He had 6 brothers, all but Daddy seved in WWII in one capacity or another. Mama had 7 brothers, the 3 oldest in served in WWII, one in Korea and two in the miliatry in the early 60's.

My grandfather served in Europe during WWI. As soon as he got home he married my grandmother and never talked about his time in the army to anyone. I have a feeling the trenches in France were not a place one wanted to tell stories about.

Tawny said...

Your Uncle Bill sounds like so much fun, Susan! The Captain Marvel story made me laugh out loud.

My only Memorial Day story: When I was 4, I was a poppy girl and was n the newspaper giving the Mayor a flower.

I'd be hard pressed to pick between my two favorite soldiers. My grampa served as a medic in WWII and was the sweetest gruff old guy in the world. I adored him. He didn't share a lot of war stories, though.

My other favorite soldier boy is my husband, who served during (but didn't serve in) the Gulf War. He's been out of the service for awhile, but still stays connected through his work with the American Legion and the VFW. He'll spend Memorial Day in a variety of ceremonies that honor our fallen.

Jane said...

Hi Susan,
We didn't have anyone in the family like your Uncle Bill. My cousin was in the army during the first Gulf war, but he wasn't deployed. My friend is in the National Guard.

Congrats, Virginia.

Helen said...

Well done Virginia have fun with him get him to work on the farm

Susan
Love that story and yes as Anna said ANZAC Day is our day to remember the fallen.
One of my Grandfathers fought in
WW2 and was gassed shot and kept getting lung infections after the gassing sadly I never met him but I do actually have a copy of his medical records and one of my great uncles was killed in WW1 and is buried in France I can't think of the place at the moment but one of my cousins has visited there and we have a letter from his sergent that was sent to his Mum very old. I also have a cousin who went to Vietnam and came home safely but he never spoke about it.

Have Fun
Helen

Gannon Carr said...

My husband is a graduate of the United States Naval Academy (amazing graduation ceremony--hats thrown in the air, very cool!) and served 21 years before he retired.

My dad was in the Marines for several years, so were several of my uncles. My husband's grandfather was in the Army and fought in WWII in the Battle of the Bulge. I also have a great uncle who fought in WWII and managed to survive being on 2 ships that sank!!!

Deb said...

Hi, Susan. Thanks for your post.

My dad was stationed in Alaska during the Korean War. His unit was being shipped to Korea, but Dad had a very bad case of bronchitis and was taken to the infirmary, so his group shipped out without him. I am so grateful for his being ill because every single man in his unit was killed in a bomb attack.

My FIL was in the Air Force during the Vietnam War. My husband is a Navy veteran and my stepson is a Marine stationed in CA.

barb said...

Hi Susan

My father was killed on active service in WW2.... he was a despatch rider with the English Army I am in Australia now and we have Anzac Day but in England they have Rememberance Day November 11
Any of my relations that were in the war never really spoke about it, just got on with life

Barbara

hrdwrkdmom aka Dianna said...

Two ex husbands were in the military, husband #1 was in the Navy, husband #3 served in Viet Nam. The stories I heard from #3 were very scary. During Desert Storm he started having flashbacks and that was scary too.

I had an uncle that was killed in WW2, I don't remember him, I visit his grave and decorate it every year.

Joan said...

First of all, a great big THANK YOU to our military past, present and future.

Your Uncle Bill sounds hilarious....

I have an uncle who was in the Air Force in the '60's stationed somewhere "secret". Ooooooo...he was a spy, I just know he was...

No wait...I DON'T know....Really I don't.

My Daddy served in the Army in the Philippines. He was a supply sergent and never saw action (that he told me anyway). His stories include:

1. Being attached to an army unit out of Louisiana and his friend LeBlanc who introduced him to Tabasco sauce. Some people put ketchup on everything? My Daddy put TS.

2. How he had a chocolate bar that he was saving and the rats (as big as tanks according to Daddy) found it and stole it.

3. We found a HUGE piece of paper...after he died. I was a letter to his mother. It started "Mother, you asked for a big letter so here it is".

He also came home with a Japanese rifle....not sure where it is now but it stayed in our garage for years....

Susan Sey said...

Hey, Virginia, congrats on the nabbing the bird! After today you might have a few more war stories in your repertoire!

Susan Sey said...

Anna wrote: No direct descendants in the military but the man my father was named after was a WWII flying ace who was killed on a training flight up in North Queensland. He and his wife basically brought Dad up and I'm always so sorry I didn't know him.

Oh, Anna, he sounds like a wonderful man. I'm sorry you didn't know him, too. Plus, I'll bet as a WWII flying ace, he had a bunch of really great stories! Doesn't that seem like an impossibly romantic job? I know it probably wasn't but just the job title--flying ace--appeals to me. :-)

Susan Sey said...

Virginia wrote: I am sure there is more but these are all I can think of right now, also FIL was in the army!

I know, I'm so bad at family history. Some people (ahem, Jeanne) know their family tree backwards & forwards but I'm really rotten at such things. I just have to assume they know I care.

PJ said...

Happy Memorial Day! It's a dark, wet and loud (thunderstorms) day here and I'm discovering that you really can type with 65 pounds of quivering dog in your lap. ;-)

My late husband was a 20 year veteran of the US Air Force. Most of what he did was classified but there were two stories he could talk about that he liked to share. First was his introduction to Saigon. He arrived in Vietnam on January 30, 1968, was taken to his quarters and pretty much collapsed from exhaustion. Sometime during the night he was awakened by gunfire, loud *BOOMS* and the sound of hundreds of feet running across the roof of his quarters. He had landed smack dab in the middle of the launching of the TET Offensive. Welcome to Saigon!

His other story took place when he was stationed in Iceland. A USO show came to the base over the Christmas holidays and he was assigned escort duty for one of the performers: Angie Dickinson. She was pretty young at the time and gorgeous. He had an 8 X 10 photo of her, personally autographed: "Bill, Thanks for a wonderful (underlined) time! Love and Kisses, Angie." He never would tell me what went on (it was before we met) but he always got a silly little grin anytime that story was brought up. lol

My dad and step-mom both served in the Navy during WWII. I have a lot of my dad's memorabilia from that time.

Two uncles served in the Air Force during WWII. One was a pilot and saw quite a bit of action. Two other uncles served in the Army and saw extensive action in Europe during WWII. One of them was on the front lines for four years. A couple years ago, I was going through some boxes that had belonged to my parents and found letters from my uncle to my grandmother that were sent from overseas during WWII. They were what was called V-Mail and included words and passages that had been blacked out by censors.

Susan Sey said...

Pink Peony wrote: And then he shrugged and said, "Girlie, that's the way the pickle squirts." :)

Ha! I guess that *is* the way the pickle squirts. He sounds like a character, that one. :-) I'll bet he has a lot of good stories.

I'll add my prayers to yours that your navy pen-pal comes home safely. Fly that flag proudly until then!

Susan Sey said...

Suz wrote: My grandfather served in Europe during WWI. As soon as he got home he married my grandmother and never talked about his time in the army to anyone.

Wow, Suz, your family tree is rich with soldiers! My grandpa was also a WWI vet who came home & never said a word about what he'd been through. We found out later he won a Croix de Guerre for battlefield valor.

My dad knows a few of the stories, but they were imparted under a veil of secrecy, man-to-man. As a daughter, I haven't had access to much of it. But my husband sometimes tells me stories, as imparted to him by my father while mano-a-mano. It's a frustrating way to learn my own family history.

Joan said...

Reading Pink Peony's post brought to mind my own experience with our current troops serving in the Gulf.

In 2004 I became involved with an organization that wanted to support the troops. I wrote letters, sent packages etc. Got some really nice responses back.

But I got close with one fellow a Sgt in the LA National Guard.

He'd had a rough go of it in his personal life (kind of...sadly classic... wife who divorced him because she couldn't take his deployment) etc. He got my letter because he was one of those who didn't get much from home.

We started corresponding and I sent him packages with things he liked such as hunting, fishing (I just bought whatever magazine had a deer on it) and other goodies.

On his birthday, I sent Oatmeal Raisin cookies (they are a hardy cookie) I have his email response memorized.

"Joan, when I came in from my mission and saw that huge package there I just about cried. If I'd been alone I would have. The cookies were the best I'd ever had, the magazines wonderful, etc. etc..You are the best."

He was very faithful to tell me not to worry if I didn't hear from him. He opened up about losing 7 guys from his unit. He sent pictures of he and his brother getting a medal. He asked my advice about his wife.

He even had one of his guys email me to tell me not to worry when he suffered his 3rd concussion and was in the hospital.

He CALLED me as he was getting ready to go out on patrol!!! I told him to hang up and pay attention!!!

I came to care for him and was so glad when his unit was scheduled to come home....one week after Katrina hit.

He reconciled with his wife, they had a baby girl and we talked about them coming up to KY to visit. But our communication trickled away. I often wonder how he is.....

Susan Sey said...

Tawny wrote: My only Memorial Day story: When I was 4, I was a poppy girl and was in the newspaper giving the Mayor a flower.

Awwww, that's sweet! And I bet your medic grandpa had himself some awesome Ernest Hemingway-esque stories! Neither of my grandpas were story tellers, & I always kind of missed that.

But, as you picked up on, my Uncle Bill sort of filled in that gap in his own, beer-soaked way. :-)

Susan Sey said...

Jane wrote: We didn't have anyone in the family like your Uncle Bill. My cousin was in the army during the first Gulf war, but he wasn't deployed. My friend is in the National Guard.

Hi, Jane! Sounds like you have plenty of vets to be grateful for. And, believe me, Uncle Bill was no picnic. He was...colorful. Which makes for great stories, but maybe not such great interpersonal relationships. Before his first wife left him, she dragged all his clothes into the alley behind their house, lit them on fire, then stole his car to get away.

And everybody in our family laughed. Because he totally deserved it. :-)

Susan Sey said...

Helen wrote: I also have a cousin who went to Vietnam and came home safely but he never spoke about it.

This is sort of a recurring theme, isn't it, Helen? Our soldier who survive physically unscathed come home carrying a life-long burden nobody can see. I hope your cousin went on to a happy life, & I wish the same for all our vets who come home with injuries nobody can see.

Susan Sey said...

Gannon Carr wrote: I also have a great uncle who fought in WWII and managed to survive being on 2 ships that sank!!!

Okay, that's a story I have to know more about. Two sinking ships? Really? Share!

Susan Sey said...

Deb wrote: His unit was being shipped to Korea, but Dad had a very bad case of bronchitis and was taken to the infirmary, so his group shipped out without him. I am so grateful for his being ill because every single man in his unit was killed in a bomb attack.


Sheesh, doesn't this sort of story give you the shivers? I thought about this in a much less dramatic way the other day on my parents' 45th wedding anniversary, which was also my oldest daughter's 7th birthday. It was kind of a mind-bender to think about everything in my life--heck, my life itself--that wouldn't have been if those two crazy kids hadn't taken a chance & said I do.

It's pretty crazy, isn't it? For what it's worth, I'm also very glad your dad had bronchitis. :)

Susan Sey said...

Barb wrote: My father was killed on active service in WW2.... he was a despatch rider with the English Army

Oh, Barb, I'm so sorry. That's such a sad story. Do you do anything special to remember him on ANZAC Day?

Susan Sey said...

hrdwrdkmom aka Dianna wrote: Two ex husbands were in the military, husband #1 was in the Navy, husband #3 served in Viet Nam. The stories I heard from #3 were very scary. During Desert Storm he started having flashbacks and that was scary too.

Oh, wow. That *does* sound scary, & to have such deeply held trauma that it can be triggered by an event half-way across the country? That's incredible.

PJ said...

I also have a cousin who went to Vietnam and came home safely but he never spoke about it.

Helen, my step-brother is the same way. He served in the U.S. Army in Vietnam. I didn't meet him until many years after he was in Nam but, to my knowledge, he's never talked to anybody about what went on over there.

Ten years after my late dh retired from the military, he would still hit the floor anytime he heard a gunshot...or any noise resembling a gunshot. I never fully understood until I experienced PTSD myself. It's an automatic response that's not easy to overcome.

Susan Sey said...

Joanie wrote: 2. How he had a chocolate bar that he was saving and the rats (as big as tanks according to Daddy) found it and stole it.

Oh, Joanie, your dad sounds wonderful! And that story reminds me of the summer I spent faithfully guarding my tampons from the mice with whom I shared (unwillingly, mind you) a little cabin in the woods.

I swear, I did everything but lock them (the tampons, not the mice) in a steel vault. But every time I went looking for a tampon (and when you're looking for a tampon, you generally NEED one), I found them shredded into a cozy, fluffy, white cotton nest.

Yeah, it's funny now, but at the time? Grrrrr.....

Susan Sey said...

PJ wrote: His other story took place when he was stationed in Iceland. A USO show came to the base over the Christmas holidays and he was assigned escort duty for one of the performers: Angie Dickinson. She was pretty young at the time and gorgeous. He had an 8 X 10 photo of her, personally autographed: "Bill, Thanks for a wonderful (underlined) time! Love and Kisses, Angie." He never would tell me what went on (it was before we met) but he always got a silly little grin anytime that story was brought up. lol

Oooooh! I'll bet that *was* a wonderful time! You're a sterling and priceless wife to let him keep that little secret. But just between you & me? Angie's got nothing on you. And it sounds like your husband knew it. :-)

Susan Sey said...

Joanie wrote: He CALLED me as he was getting ready to go out on patrol!!! I told him to hang up and pay attention!!!

LOL!

He reconciled with his wife, they had a baby girl and we talked about them coming up to KY to visit. But our communication trickled away. I often wonder how he is.....

Oh, Joanie, I got goosebumps reading this story. You were like an angel to him when he needed it most in his life. I don't doubt he's busy now with his young family but I'll bet you still hold a special place in his heart, & I wouldn't be surprised if you hear from him again some day. I hope you do.

Susan Sey said...

PJ wrote: Ten years after my late dh retired from the military, he would still hit the floor anytime he heard a gunshot...or any noise resembling a gunshot. I never fully understood until I experienced PTSD myself. It's an automatic response that's not easy to overcome.

This is an amazing story. I'd heard of this kind of thing but never really got it until I watched Band of Brothers, that miniseries about a band of soldiers during WWII. And to see the documentary footage of these guys at their reunions fifty years later, to understand the bond they shared, that they went through things nobody who wasn't there could possibly understand--it would bond you closer than family, closer than blood.

I can't imagine trying to go back to 'normal' life after that.

Susan Sey said...

Speaking of which, I just saw The Hurt Locker. The ending (I won't give it away but you guys who've seen it will understand) seems just so understandable now, doesn't it?

The guy wasn't an adrenaline junkie so much as he was just unable to live in a normal world after the world he'd learned to survive in.

Anybody else seen this movie??

jo robertson said...

Great post, Susan! Super Captain Marvel story, makes me giggle.

Congratulations, Virginia. Sounds like you have a real military history in your family! Put a uniform on the chook and have him stand guard duty today VBG.

Anna, what does ANZAC stand for?

jo robertson said...

Pink, I know soldiers and veterans have a special place in your heart.

I love hearing war stories, grew up on them because my dad served at Guadalcanal. I never realized how harrowing that experience was b/c Dad always downplayed the worst of it. Then I watched the miniseries THE PACIFIC and compared what I saw with my dad's personal history. Yep, he was in the midst of all that muck, 22 years old and likely scared to death.

jo robertson said...

Suz said, "My Dad serve his duty in Germany during the Korean War"

My dad did too, Suz!! I wonder if they ever knew each other. Dad was all set to be shipped out to Korea (the forgotten war) when his CO intervened since Dad had seen serious combat in the South Pacific, had a wife and three little kids, and he got sent to Germany instead where we spent 4 years in West Berlin, Nuremberg and Bamburg.

jo robertson said...

Susan, I haven't seen THE HURT LOCKER yet (have to be in the right mood to see those war movies), but I've heard such great buzz about it. It's definitely on my must-see list.

Did anyone watch the PBS salute to veterans last night? It was wonderful.

Beth said...

Loved your post, Susan! Your uncle reminds me of my FIL who had some great stories *g*

We have several direct family members who have served/are serving in the military but my FIL is my favorite soldier. He served during WWII as a Pathfinder for the 101st Airborne and was just a really terrific man!

Okay, we just got back from our town's parade and now we're off to the first picnic of the day :-)

Joan said...

Mice an tampons?????

Wow, we'll have to bar the door at Disneyworld....Between Minnie and Cinderella's little mice friends we might have an invasion!

Susan Sey said...

Jo wrote: Great post, Susan! Super Captain Marvel story, makes me giggle.


Me, too! But again, given Uncle Bill's love of a good story & his history of playing fast & loose with the truth, I have no idea if it's true. But it's a good story, nonetheless. :-)

Susan Sey said...

Jo wrote: I never realized how harrowing that experience was b/c Dad always downplayed the worst of it. Then I watched the miniseries THE PACIFIC and compared what I saw with my dad's personal history. Yep, he was in the midst of all that muck, 22 years old and likely scared to death.

I felt that way about Band of Brothers, Jo. I didn't have a family member involved in WWII but I've heard the stories, of course. Greatest Generation stuff, right? But I don't feel like I really GOT it until I saw Band of Brothers.

I'll have to check of the Pacific.

Susan Sey said...

Jo wrote: Susan, I haven't seen THE HURT LOCKER yet (have to be in the right mood to see those war movies), but I've heard such great buzz about it. It's definitely on my must-see list.

I know! I still haven't seen Schindler's List because I can't find a three hour chunk of my life when I want to feel that bad. But I know it's an important movie & it's on my list...

Susan Sey said...

BEth wrote: Okay, we just got back from our town's parade and now we're off to the first picnic of the day :-)

Ooooh, Beth, I wish I were having your day! We're packing up right now for the six hour drive from Omaha to Mpls. Wish me luck!

Susan Sey said...

Joanie wrote: Wow, we'll have to bar the door at Disneyworld....Between Minnie and Cinderella's little mice friends we might have an invasion!

Good plan, Joanie! Those little things look cute & all but they're insidious! If it come down to fisticuffs, I'll take Mickey, you take Minnie. :-)

Susan Sey said...

Okay, boys & girls--

I'm heading out for the long drive from Omaha back home to Mpls. It's six hours on a good day, seven to eight with kids. I'll try to check the blog from the road but if I don't check back in til this evening, play nice without me!

I'll see you on the other side!

Kim in Hawaii said...

Thanks, Susan, for inviting us to share our stories. On Memorial Day, I think of a friend I knew from my first assignment in Air Force - Captain Mike Neuner. He lost his life to cancer but he remains an inspiration to those of us he touched with his humor, warmth, and compassion. Mike was the first person to organize a fundraising event when someone was in need - we danced all night in Dance Marathon and we ran all night in a Run-A-Thon. No doubt he would "hop" to see me in Hawaii, bumming a surfboard from a local at the beach. Mike would even teach the Cabana Boys new ways to have fun and create havoc!

Mike is buried in Arlington National Cemetery near his father, a Korean War veteran. May father and son rest in peace.

Anna Sugden said...

What a lovely post, Susan. We can't pay enough tribute to the men and women of our militaries - who give so much for our freedom and way of life.

Our version of Memorial Day is November 11th - Remembrance Day. On that day, at 11am, the whole country comes to a standstill for two minutes to pay our respects. Yes, even the tills at McDonalds stop and people in public places stop and bow their heads, It's one of the most moving things you'll ever see.

My FIL was in the RAF and served in Lagos during WW2. He doesn't talk about it very much, but every now and again he'll tell a funny story.

My BIL currently serves in the RAF.

My grandfather was an Air Raid Warden, I think. Or he served with the Home Guard (the Aussies probably know Dad's Army ).

I have a friend whose father was a Japanese PoW during WW2 - I think he may even have worked on the railroads - he NEVER talked about the war. After seeing some of the films about that time, I'm not suprised. What amazes me is that he's the wonnderful man he is - generous and funny and kind - after all he must have suffered.

Nancy said...

Virginia, congrats on the rooster!

Susan, I love this post and, as you might imagine, especially the story about Uncle Bill and Captain Marvel (whom I remember well in his four-color incarnation).

As our regulars know, both my parents were in the U.S. Navy, where they met, during and after WWII, though my mom had to resign her commission when they married. My dad's two brothers also were in the navy, and my mom's twin brother served in the army during WWII.

Two of my dad's half-brothers were scouts in the Phillipines during WWII, and I _think_ his stepfather was also in the navy.

None of my grandparents served in the military, but my father's father had a son (in his first family; the family that included Daddy was # 3--long story) who died in the AEF in World War I. I supposedly have Daughters of the American Revolution and United Daughters of the Confederacy bona fides if I chose to use them.

I don't have colorful stories, though. I suspect most of Daddy's were not what he considered fit for his daughters to hear. He did tell some funny ones about his POW camp experiences in Japan, but I later came to realize those had a dark underbelly that made them much less humorous. He was lucky to survive that experience, which lasted 41 months.

He also served in Korea as a hospital corpsman, participating in the Inchon landing, but he didn't talk much about it. My mom told me he lost his watch when he went over the ship's side to the boat at Inchon.

The last movie he and I saw together was Saving Private Ryan. Neither the dh nor my mom wanted to go, so Daddy and I went together. I confess to watching the first 20 minutes with my eyes mostly closed. When we came out of the theater, he said, "Inchon wasn't like that when we came ashore. The Marines had already cleaned things up for us."

I have his Silver Star and Purple Heart from that conflict, but the only reason I know how he got them is that we found the citation after he died. He was wounded (not severely) driving an ambulance to the front and insisted on making several trips before receiving medical attention himself.

PJ said...

Our version of Memorial Day is November 11th - Remembrance Day. On that day, at 11am, the whole country comes to a standstill for two minutes to pay our respects. Yes, even the tills at McDonalds stop and people in public places stop and bow their heads, It's one of the most moving things you'll ever see.

Anna, we celebrate November 11 here in the States as well. It was originally called "Armistice Day" but has since been changed to "Veterans Day." I can remember having the two minutes of silence at 11AM when I was in school. I don't think they do that much, if at all, in the States anymore.

Pat Cochran said...

We have had 18 members who served
our country since W.W.II, they all returned home safely with only a
few "dings" here and there. Like
Uncle Pete who was wounded during
one of the invasions into France.

My twin brothers served in Viet Nam. One Christmas, they were delivering gifts to an orphanage. They were walking along a dirt road and as Navy men are wont to do, they were cutting up. Butch and Bill (other wise known as
"the twins") were carrying boxes of toy trucks. Bill felt something hit the box he was holding. He yelled at the guys ahead of him to stop throwing rocks. They insisted they hadn't tossed anything. When they reached the orphanage, they began setting toys under a tree. Bill found himself speechless when a spent bullet was at the bottom of the box. A bullet hole was in the side of the box. The metal trucks in the container had kept the bullet from hitting him in the chest!

Pat Cochran

Loucinda McGary aka Aunty Cindy said...

GREAT POST, Smoov! Your Uncle Bill sounds like my kinda guy!

Have a safe trip home.

Congrats on the chook, Virginia! Lock up the chocolate!

My father served in the Navy during Korea and all I know for sure that he gained from the experience was 3 tatoos -- one was a topless hula dancer. :-P

My ex-FIL served in the South Pacific during WWII and contracted malaria while there. Funny thing, even though he'd had malaria, he was still allowed to donate blood because of his rare blood type (AB-).

One of my grandmother's brothers also served in the South Pacific during WWII and she talked about getting a letter from him once that said, "Sis, I can't tell you where I am, but I'll tell you where I've been..." and the entire rest of the letter was blacked out by the censors!

I still have some old ration stamps my grandmother saved from WWII.

AC

Loucinda McGary aka Aunty Cindy said...

VA and PJ,
I LOVE the 2 minutes of silence observation on Nov. 11! What a fitting tribute. I'm going to start observing that one myself starting this November.

AC

Loucinda McGary aka Aunty Cindy said...

Jo,
I have seen The Hurt Locker, or as much of it as I could watch. Like Nancy, I had to shut my eyes during some of the more intense scenes.

It is an amazing film and I can't recommend it highly enough!

AC

Suzanne Welsh said...

On Memorial Day I tend to think about the nurses I've known who served...

My mother-in-law was a nurse fresh out of nursing school who served on the east coast as a WAC caring for soldiers returning from Europe. She met my FIL, who was a merchant marine while they were both stationed near Wasington.

I worked with a nurse who was an EVAC nurse in InChon (sp?) during VeitNam. She had great stories...and taught me the phrase, "doing maneuvers on the horizontal launching pad".

Then there were the nurses who were retired lietenants and captains from Korea who worked on M*A*S*H units. All with great stories about service men and furloughs!

Joan said...

I once took care of a survivor of the Battan Death March.

He had scars all over his back from being prodded with bayonets....

Very sad...

Helen said...

Jo
ANZAC stands for Australian New Zealand Army Corps when they invaded Gallipoli in the first world war, we also have a minuites silence on Rememberence Day on November 11th.

Have Fun
Helen

PinkPeony said...

I've really enjoyed reading everyone's posts. :)

PJ: Angie Dickinson? Holy moly, I bet your husband was the envy of his unit! (Though I'm sure Pepper Anderson didn't have anything on you!)

Joan: You never know..out of the blue one day, you'll hear from your soldier friend. It's happened to me a few times. Your HUGE piece of paper story cracked me up!

Nancy: 41 months in a Japanese POW camp? Makes me shudder just thinking about it.
I watched "Taking Chance" last night on HBO. I don't think I've cried so much since I saw Brian's Song as a kid.

Louisa Cornell said...

Yay! Virginia, you are in for some combat today! The GR is his own invasion force! Guard the chocolate and the booze!


I come from a long line of military men, explains a lot about the scrappy disposition of the women in my family!

My Dad lied about his age and joined the Army at the age of 17 and was shipped out to Korea. He only talked about it one time when I had to interview a veteran for an American History project. We didn't know until we were grown, not long before Dad died that he received the silver star for bravery. He drew fire onto his position so that the rest of his unit could withdraw. Then he returned to the battlefield several times under heavy fire to rescue the men who had fallen. He refused to take the medals. He said "You aren't supposed to get medals for doing your job." After he died, my Mom filed the paperwork to get all of his medals so that my nephew can have them. After he got out of the Army he joined the Air Force and served for 21 years. We traveled all over the world with him. When we were stationed in England he was gone on TDY a lot. This was during the Vietnam War. It wasn't until we got the markers for his grave that we discovered that in addition to serving in combat in Korea he also served in combat in Vietnam. They won't tell us where or how.

My grandfather was in the Navy during WWII. Two of my uncles were in the Air Force in the 50's. One of my uncles was a seabee during WWII.

The most famous family story is of my Great Great Uncle Tip. He was full-blooded Creek Indian and he fought in the Confederate Army during the Civil War. He told a story about returning to Alabama from a POW camp at the end of the war and being so thirsty he stopped to drink water from a hoof print on the road.

Nancy said...

PinkPeony, I also saw Taking Chance and found it very moving.

The book Final Salute by Jim Sheeler follows Marine Corps casualty notification teams and tracks the experiences of several of the families they visit. It grew out of a Pulitzer-winning story he wrote for the Rocky Mountain News. It's a beautifully written book, and it will break your heart.

Nancy said...

Louisa, I love these stories. At our house, we have a definite Navy bias. :-)

PinkPeony said...

Nancy,

I read "Final Salute" and I had a tissue in my hand the entire time.

The movie, "Restrepo" is out in limited engagement right now. It's based on Sebastian Junger's article in Vanity Fair about the Korengal Outpost (on the Afghanistan/Pakistan border)and the 173rd Airborne soldiers who'd engaged in more enemy contact than any unit in the theater. PFC Juan Restrepo, which the outpost is named after, was one of the many KIA from that unit. I'd sent him two packages but he was KIA before they'd arrived. "Restrepo" the movie has its own Facebook page if you want to check it out. It may be playing in your area.

Susan Sey said...

Kim in Hawaii wrote: On Memorial Day, I think of a friend I knew from my first assignment in Air Force - Captain Mike Neuner. He lost his life to cancer but he remains an inspiration to those of us he touched with his humor, warmth, and compassion.

Kim, you Captain Mike sounds like a wonderful person. Thanks for sharing him with us today.

Susan Sey said...

Anna S. wrote: Yes, even the tills at McDonalds stop and people in public places stop and bow their heads, It's one of the most moving things you'll ever see.

Anna, this sounds incredibly touching. I think we did (or used to do) something similar on Veterans Day here in the US but it seems to have gone the way of the Pledge of Allegiance in school. Something we used to do but just...don't any more. I don't know why. I wish people would teach their kids to stand up and take off their darn ball caps for the National Anthem, too, but I'm not everybody's mom so I let that one go.

But you can bet my kids don't sit on their duffs when they hear the Star Spangled Banner.

Susan Sey said...

Nancy wrote: Susan, I love this post and, as you might imagine, especially the story about Uncle Bill and Captain Marvel (whom I remember well in his four-color incarnation).

Ha! Nancy, I was thinking of you when I was typing that story. I thought you'd particularly enjoy it. :-)

And I knew your family was chock full of military credentials--it's amazing to me how these things run in families. My FIL was career Air Force, & my BIL was career Navy, & as a boy, my husband moved something like 13 times before he was eleven. I've asked him a couple times if he ever thought about going into the military like his brother. He said, "Nah. I did want to be a farmer for a while, though."

Huh. I guess you just can't figure some things. :-)

Hope you celebrated your well-decorated family tree today!

Susan Sey said...

PJ wrote: Anna, we celebrate November 11 here in the States as well. It was originally called "Armistice Day" but has since been changed to "Veterans Day." I can remember having the two minutes of silence at 11AM when I was in school. I don't think they do that much, if at all, in the States anymore.

Ha! I knew it! I (in my infinite scatterbrainedness) thought I remembered something like this. Thanks, PJ, for coming up with it.

Susan Sey said...

Pat Cochran wrote: Bill found himself speechless when a spent bullet was at the bottom of the box. A bullet hole was in the side of the box. The metal trucks in the container had kept the bullet from hitting him in the chest!

OMG, Pat, what an incredible story! I can't believe a box of toy trucks saved his life. That'll teach us the value of doing a good deed!

Susan Sey said...

AC wrote: My ex-FIL served in the South Pacific during WWII and contracted malaria while there. Funny thing, even though he'd had malaria, he was still allowed to donate blood because of his rare blood type (AB-).

Wow! Times must have changed, because I have ABneg blood, too, & the person I talked to at the Red Cross was like, "Yeah, thanks, don't call us, we'll call you." Maybe I should check again with somebody more knowledgeable? Because I'd really like to support my blood bank if I have something they need.

And LOL on coming home with tattoos. I used to work with a guy with a naked hula girl on his forearm. He wouldn't say how he got it, just that it had something to do with a lost weekend during a stint with the merchant marines. Nuff said, you know?

Susan Sey said...

Suz wrote: She had great stories...and taught me the phrase, "doing maneuvers on the horizontal launching pad".

LOL, Suz! That's a great phrase. I fully expect to see it in one of your books someday. In fact, I'll be totally disappointed if you don't find a way to use it!

Susan Sey said...

Joan wrote: I once took care of a survivor of the Battan Death March.

He had scars all over his back from being prodded with bayonets....


Oh. Oh, my. This breaks my heart. It never ceases to break my heart what one human being will do to another.

Susan Sey said...

Louisa Cornell wrote: The most famous family story is of my Great Great Uncle Tip. He was full-blooded Creek Indian and he fought in the Confederate Army during the Civil War. He told a story about returning to Alabama from a POW camp at the end of the war and being so thirsty he stopped to drink water from a hoof print on the road.

Oh, wow, Louisa. I hope you're going to use that image in a story some day because, holy cow, talk about a goose bumps moment. What a star-spangled family tree! You must've told stories all day trying honor them all!

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