Sunday, November 11, 2012
On Veterans Day in 2010 I changed my facebook picture to one of my mom during World War II. Each year since, I've changed my picture back to this one. Mom died in 2000 at age 81.
After finishing college and the beginning of the war, she enlisted in the Marines as a nurse's aid and was sent to New Guinea. These were huge life changes for a young woman from Kansas. She told tales of the South Pacific - good looking "fly boys" from Australia - and from America; rain forests and deluges; and tropical diseases to avoid. One of those brought her home where she mustered out and took a civilian job in the Manhattan Project.
As a traditional housewife of the 50's, her adventurous life during and after the war was not well known. She was much better known in my home town as the non-Catholic mother of six children.
She loved to dance, and the music of the 30's and 40's was an early soundtrack of my life. Our Dad also loved to dance. They met on a blind date early in 1947, quickly married, and produced my eldest brother before the end of the year.
Dad was one year older than Mom and finished engineering school right before the war. He enlisted as an officer in the Navy after Pearl Harbor and spent years as a drill instructor at Annapolis. He requested active duty and served on a destroyer in the Pacific theater. Before the end of the war he was ordered back to Annapolis. For decades after the war he commanded a US Navy Reserve Seabee unit in our town. Dad's booming voice was either a special talent or result of his years of Navy service.
I always think of the contributions of my parents as Veterans on days like today. The millions who mobilized in the armed forces and on the home front helped keep our nation secure. I'm not sure I understood what that meant as a child, but I'm glad they told their stories so that I would remember when I became an adult.