Veterans Day. We set this day aside each year to honor all who have served America. My father is one of those people. Although he died more than 30 years ago, I often think of his military service and the stories he told us while we were growing up. He served in the Navy on a troop transport ship during WWII in the Pacific Theatre. I remember the names of places he talked about - the Philippines, Guadalcanal, Leyte, Luzon, Midway, Pearl Harbor - and the stories he told. I also remember groaning inwardly at some of them. They couldn't possibly be true! He must be embellishing a little for his friends' benefit. This is one of his more unusual stories:
Dad said three ships left New Guinea making their way through the Philippines, they were headed for Lingayen Gulf. His ship was in the middle, and they were zig-zagging all over the place because the crew had been drinking homemade moonshine made in the boiler room. As his story goes, the Japanese sank the ship in front of them and also the one behind, but they made it through safe and sound because of that zig-zag pattern (and the homemade hooch).
I doubted the part about the homemade moonshine and I also doubted the part about the ships in front and behind being sunk. I owe my dad an apology. Years after he died, I got a copy of his service papers and the name of the ship he served on. I also found several links online that described the "very heavy kamikaze attacks" these transport ships suffered in the same region my father described. It had to be terrifying.
I've also had men my father's age tell me that the crews often made their own alcohol and the captain turned a blind eye. As my uncle said, "When your men are on a mission they may never get out of alive, do you think the captain is really going to worry about breaking a few rules?" Good point.
Anyway, my dad was one of the lucky ones to come home alive, and although he could joke about some of the action he saw, it changed him. He drank more than he should have, and he also had anger issues. They both contributed to his early demise and complicated his life.
Today is not just about my dad though. Today is about all the men and women who have served and continue to serve our country with honor and incredible personal sacrifice. Today is not about partisanship, color, creed or sexual orientation. Today is about giving thanks to all of our veterans and support to our troops. Thank you from the bottom of my heart - and thank you too, dad. I miss you.
This is a Blogging For Michigan Troop Care post. From November 11 through November 25, 2007, Blogging For Michigan will use 100% of every dollar received in the Troop Care fund to purchase and ship items to Michigan troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. Learn more about BFM Troop Care here. Click here to contribute to Troop Care. Contributions are not tax deductible.