I grew up in a very patriotic family. We respected and flew the flag. We thanked those who served in the military and regarded them as heroes. My dad was my personal hero.
After graduating high school in 1938, he worked for a little over three years as a cashier for the Brooklyn Trust Co. (The beginning of a career in banking, no doubt.) May 15, 1942 he enlisted to serve his country.
He deployed with the 12th Air Force and spent 23 months abroad between Italy, England, and Tunisia. On his return, he was sent to Wright Patterson Air Force Base, where he met my mother. She was working as a secretary for one of the base generals. They had a whirlwind romance, marrying just weeks after they began dating. It was a simple wedding. In 1945, he left the service to begin a career in banking.
My dad spent most of his adult life as a bank examiner for the FDIC. He was honest, reliable, true to his word, and funny. And he was patriotic. He never forgot his time in the service. He never forgot to be thankful for those who served. He taught my sister and me the values of the great country we lived in. He helped us understand that freedom isn’t free, that many sacrifice, so that the rest of us can be free to worship, free to disagree, free to speak our minds. My dad is gone. But oh what memories I have. One of my favorite memories is Tuesday nights when he and I would take our seats on the couch and watch Combat! together. Just the two of us. During commercials he would sometimes remember his buddies or share a story of what being a soldier was like.
I had another relative who also served, my Uncle David. He was around 20 when he enlisted. His time in service was not as kind to him as it was to my dad. By the time I was old enough to know my Uncle David, he had suffered a mental breakdown. I heard family members say he wasn’t the same after the war. He lived with my grandparents and would check himself in and out of the VA hospital when he felt the need. But on his good days, he was loving, kind and fun. My cousins and I loved our Uncle David. He’d laugh with us and make up silly jokes. He had a big reclining chair. One day, we found a couple of quarters under the chair. When we tried to give them back, he refused, saying they must have fallen out of his pockets and then added, “Finders keepers.” At each visit, there seemed to be more and more quarters. I remember thinking that surely he could remember to take them out of his pockets
before sitting. Only later, as I looked back did I realize that the sweet smile we’d see when we found his quarters was because he was adding to his pockets before sitting.
When I was in my thirties, I visited my Uncle David. His parents were gone and he was now able to live mostly on his own. He brought up the war in conversation. He was thankful for the VA caretakers for the times he needed them. But surprising to me, he was thankful to be called a veteran. He was proud of his service and he hoped he’d made a difference.
Today, my son is in active service, a colonel in the Air Force. His grandfather and great uncle would be proud. His mom is definitely proud.
In this season to honor our veterans and to be thankful, I am thankful that my dad was part of the greatest generation. I am thankful that Uncle David could find his own peace in serving and that he sacrificed life, as he had known it, for others. I am thankful for my son, not yet a veteran, who serves selflessly and for his family who supports him and serves along side him.
And I am thankful that I live in a great nation, where I am the beneficiary of those who went before and those who carry on. Continue reading “Gone but not Forgotten”