Archive for the ‘Navy’ Category

Somber and emotional thoughts and feelings have dominated my weekend.  I had many eloquent thoughts racing through my mind but seem unable to put them down in writing so shouldn’t even try.  I’m sure that I reflect more on the meaning of this day in my older years than I did as a younger man.  There have been numerous wonderful tributes on TV.  I especially have been impressed with some of the Public Television presentations, particularly the annual Memorial Day Concert from Washington D.C.

Joseph Stalin reportedly once said “a million deaths is a statistic, a single death is a tragedy.”  I guess he dealt more with statistics.  This weekend we see many images of very many cemeteries in very many places with rows and rows of white stones with thousands of flags representing the ultimate sacrifice.  Each burial site represents a tragedy for the loved ones.  In addition we will be reminded of the thousands of wounded still suffering in so many instances with countless injuries and amputation, and one can only ponder, why you and not me.  Caring for them and relieving them and their families of personal financial catastrophe must be the first priority, ahead of anything and everything  including credit card relief with National Park gun privileges.

This is just me speaking but I never had much empathy for those who disagreed with their country and chose to flee or otherwise refused to serve, or chose to protest by burning the flag or draft card while upholding their rights under the Constitution.  They would as quickly burn the Constitution if they felt it denied their precious rights.  I have come to believe that we really have no choice in the matter.  None of us chose by birth to be American, we just are.  That imparts certain patriotic obligations.  We can believe the country is wrong, as I sometimes do, but we each are required regardless of politics, religion, race or creed to answer positively when called to serve militarily.   I understand that not all will agree.

Daughter Julie’s genealogy studies and the Civil War stories and others reported, reinforce my feelings that things have always been and always will be, and the short time we are here requires us to continue the process as well as attempt to improve life for those who will follow.  In every case, the fallen have preserved the opportunity for the nation to continue in a positive way.  It’s up to the remaining to take advantage of that opportunity in a positive way.

Take this day to honor the fallen Veterans of all wars and the families who have endured.  Thank the surviving Veterans who willingly gave years of their lives as well.  The WWII vets are almost gone, and the vets of the next two wars are getting old.  Especially, remember and thank those presently serving.  Then, in spite of the lack of stellar present economic conditions,  be proud to be American.


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March 7th. It always rings a bell and reminds me of the day in 1951 that I entered the U.S. Navy. My service number assigned me that day rolls off my tongue far quicker than my social security number. Pat and I had married two months earlier and I had expected to be leaving shortly after our wedding day. Then because enlistments were coming in faster than the Navy could keep up, there was a delay until March. I suspect there were many like me who preferred the prospects of Navy life compared to the dire news reports of what might be expected if one was sent to Korea as a soldier or marine. In my own defense, I had always wanted to be in the Navy, as a child wants to be a fireman or whatever. Indeed, I had already joined and served in the Navy Reserve for four years, long before the Korean War, enlisting when I was 17 and still in high school with parents approval. From our home town of Mount Ayr, IA. I was sent to Des Moines for induction. There, I joined a group of about 35 other Iowans taking their physicals and oaths and receiving their orders. As it turned out there were several from Ottumwa, which I didn’t know but became close friends and served with the next four years. Our friendship was renewed many years later when Pat, Tim, Julie and I moved to Ottumwa and our children would meet their future spouses. Funny how things all work out sometimes.

That day in Des Moines resulted in the determination that out of the 35 men, only two of us were married. I was 21, barely, and the other married man was 18. So, I was assigned the task of carrying all the orders for the entire group and was designated as being in charge during the two day train trip to San Diego, CA. That included arranging for meals and payment to the Railroad, etc. Also, keep the under-aged (all of them) out of the club car. I was not thrilled with the responsibility.

There was time available before train departure and another memory of that day included a visit to the State Capitol to see my father, who was serving in the Iowa Senate. The Legislature was in session and I was allowed on the floor of the Senate to see Dad. I was embarrassed (and honored) when he halted proceedings to introduce me to the Senate and announced that I was leaving in a few minutes for San Diego and the Navy. A quick father and son hug, and I was out the door to a big ovation.

The trip was relatively uneventful, with no particular problems. All good boys in those days. One other memory of that first day was of a song that I heard for the first time. “Unforgettable” reminded me of the love I had just left behind and had no idea when I would see again. And of course, the day in general that would be – unforgettable.

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