Today we honor all U.S. Military veterans around the world who have served, or gave their lives in service to our great country. Take time today to thank them.
My dad was a proud veteran of World War II. Like most of his friends and lots of young men in the 1940′s, the Japanese invasion of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, shocked him. He enlisted in the Army Air Corps early in 1942.
Dad rarely discussed his military service defending our country. He saw plenty and did plenty, but seldom talked about it. I think lots of his contemporaries felt the same way. One day before Dad became ill I asked him directly, “Would you tell me your thoughts about your experiences in the war?” I asked him for a written account of his time in the military. He agreed.
I thought after all those years he might not remember much. His mind was slowly slipping away. He was having trouble remembering lots of things.
But what he wrote shocked and delighted me.
Dad wrote, from memory, every mission (19 total) he flew and the dates he flew them. He remembered the target and a few details of some mission he and his crew flew. Dad was the radio man on a photo reconnaissance squadron. His crew flew in ahead of combat troops to photograph the topography and areas around potential bombing targets. Dad and his crew flew missions into and around Japan out of Guam and several other South Pacific locations. On one or two missions they took anti-aircraft fire and feared for their lives, Dad wrote.
Since Dad’s crew was photo reconnaissance, they developed their own film. Dad asked my grandpa to send him a camera. Dad took more than 2,000 personal pictures during his tour. A typhoon pounded the base, however, and destroyed his pictures and everything else on the island. Dad said he escaped the typhoon with only the clothes he was wearing.
Dad was proud of his service. He joined the American Legion when he returned from the war and was a faithful member and servant for 50 years. When he died The Legion gave him a burial with full military honors, including a flag-draped coffin, taps and a 21-gun salute.
My dad was one of several honorable veterans in our family, including my grandfather, my Uncle John and great uncles. I was proud to serve a tour in the Air Force during the Vietnam War in Selma, Alabama (uneventful as it may have been). I didn’t see combat like dad, but served plenty of airmen and officers who had been in battle in the Vietnam theater.
Dad is now, and will always be, one of my heroes.
Other sons and daughters my age can recall stories (different details, different missions, different theaters of war) about their fathers’ or uncles’ military service in World War II or Korea.
Hundreds of thousands of men and women are serving our country around the world today. Whatever our political views, or our opinions about our United States military, we remain the most independent, blessed nation on the planet. And we have all those who are currently serving, have served, or died in battle whose sacrifices have helped us gain that freedom.
May God bless all our veterans and our active duty military and reservists today and forever, wherever are.