Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Veterans Of The Greatest Generation
If it wasn't for my Father's love of coffee, I wouldn't be here today. Let me explain. The time was June 1943. My Dad was in The US Army during World War II. His Regiment was on a Troop Transport Ship docked at a port in Leyte in The South Pacific.
My Dad was up in the enclosed Bridge, playing Poker with six other Servicemen in his Troop. He decided he needed a break and went below Deck to get his frequent cup of coffee. No sooner had my Dad reached the Galley, when their ship was attacked by several Japanese Kamikaze Airplanes. The first plane registered a direct hit into the ship's Bridge. All personnel on the Bridge were killed instantly. Massive explosions and fire ravaged the ship, but my Father was able to escape with minor injuries and shrapnel wounds all over his body.
Like so many other GI's, Dad returned from the war to The Youngstown Area. He got married and started to raise a family in Struthers. I was the third child and baby of the family and only boy. As most Veterans of wars, Dad didn't talk about any specifics of The Hell of War, nor the hardships he endured during that time.
Growing up 100 yards from our high school, Every Veteran's Day, Dad and I would walk through the field adjacent to our house to the Veteran's Memorial in front of the school. Dad would stand at rapt attention as a short speech was delivered honoring our Veterans. The Honor Guard made up of Veterans from the local VFW fired their rifles in the customary Three Shot Salute. "Taps" was played by a lone trumpeter. At the conclusion, we would walk back to the house in silence. Dad, I'm sure, was reflecting on those that died for our freedom during that horrid war.
Over the years, I would glean stories and information from Dad about his days in the war. He served most of his time in Australia in The Motor Pool, repairing vehicles. During his off hours, my Dad tinkered in the Motor Pool Shop and made several items he eventually brought home. An ashtray made out of different size bullets, a mortar shell, and Australian coins, and a vase made out of a small mortar shell pounded into a unique shape. Other mementos were a Kangaroo hide and an authentic Aborigine Boomerang. I still proudly display those items I inherited.
I can recall several times, my Mom or one of my sisters performing minor surgery with a sterilized sewing needle on Dad when he would find a piece of shrapnel in his scalp, limb, or torso that would work itself up to his skin surface and cause him discomfort. We're talking some that had been in his body over forty years! My Father did receive The Purple Heart for his injuries. I never knew that until he died in 1993. Just like Dad not to mention it.
Patriotism and love of country didn't have to be taught to my generation. We were the Sons and Daughters of so many that we knew who sacrificed before us to give all Americans their freedom. Patriotic songs were a popular choice in music class in school. Hell, truth be told, I still well up when I hear,"God Bless The USA!"