Tomorrow is Memorial Day and I can’t stop thinking about my Dad.
Memorial Day is so much more than those of us realize who never fought in a war or were close to someone who was doing so. My brothers, friends and I just missed the Viet Nam War, but I knew of its pain and missing soldiers and tragedy.
But my father, oh my father. He was nineteen when he shipped off to Okinawa from Puget Sound in WWII. I was there for a convention seventy years later, and could hardly believe that I was seeing the last bit of American soil my father saw before he shipped out.
When he arrived, he fought in the Battle of Okinawa, one of the bloodiest battles in WWII, yet one not heralded in the media and in people’s minds for years to come. He told me of standing in a landing boat and watching his fellow soldiers crack up from the strain. Crying uncontrollably. Many were sent home.
But not my father. He spent his first night on shore in a Japanese tomb to avoid mortar shells, dead decaying bodies in jars, as was the custom. He told me of one night when he happened to roll over in his sleep and miss the shrapnel that dropped inches from his head. He told me of seeing kamikaze pilots fly their planes straight into ships and other targets. He told me of being scared to death and not knowing for sure why he was there.
But he never told me until 60 years after it happened. He kept it inside, festering, growing, churning…into what?
I believe when Tom Brokaw wrote of The Greatest Generation he was speaking of my Dad and the countless soldiers who came after him. Whether they fought in WWII or Viet Nam or Iraq or Afghanistan, any man or woman who fights in a war is one of that greatest generation. And they have paid a price that none of the rest of us will ever pay or ever truly know.
Here’s to all of you. Here’s to my Dad who died two years ago last month. I thank you. I am grateful to you. I love you. With all my heart.
Let us not forget who and what it is we celebrate and remember tomorrow. Here’s to you Dad.