Memories of My Daddy
By BA @ Kids Matter
I grew up during a time when people were, “dodging the draft” and protesting war. I have never spent a lot of time thinking about freedom. I don’t know about you, but I kind of take it for granted.
Recently, a simple request to write a paragraph about Veteran’s Day prompted me to think about the men and women who serve our country every day who are willing to give their lives so that we can keep our freedom. Would you be brave enough to enlist in the armed services during war time? My father was one of those brave young men who did that very thing.
At 17 years old, my father was too young to enlist and had to have parental permission to join the U.S. Navy. Times were different then. It was World War II and young men were longing to “march off to war” and protect those they loved. The world was in turmoil as my father begged to be allowed to enlist. His mother would have none of it. After all, he was an only child and he had not been drafted. Why would he want to do something so foolish? He was just a child, she argued. Over and over he pleaded and argued his point. His mother was adamant that he was not going. After several days finally my grandfather signed the necessary paperwork and he was off to join the Navy. My grandmother was devastated.
Underage, young, and impulsive, he quickly realized that he would have to pass the necessary requirements to become a sailor. One of those requirements was that he would have to be able to the read the colorful signal flags that were flown on ships. Not so hard you say? My father was colorblind but that was not going to deter him! He simply memorized the flags (not by colors) and passed the test.
He was sent to Chicago for basic training, where he trained on the Great Lakes. After basic training, he was stationed on a large destroyer, the USS Rogers, where he served as a radar man. He was deployed to Hawaii sometime around 1943. As the war progressed and the Japanese became more and more aggressive, my grandmother was in constant fear for his life. After Pearl Harbor, it became apparent that drastic action would have to be taken; the U.S. would have to join the war. We all know from history what drastic measures were later used against Japan. After the bombs were dropped it was days before Japan surrendered.
My father was on one of the ships that went into Japan after the bombings. He never talked much about the actual events. There are a few souvenirs that he brought back: two Japanese rag dolls, old black and white photos, and his Navy picture in his dress blues, his white uniform, sailor hat, and his medals that are saved in a suitcase with his uniform. All of these are now simply memories of a young sailor who served his country alongside thousands of other young men, my uncles included, and women in all branches of the service. This suitcase holds a part of my father that I did not know but, having inherited these things after his death; it somehow makes me feel closer to that 17 year old. I am proud to say that I am the daughter of a “Tin Can Sailor” who survived World War II.
Thank you, Daddy, and all of the other Veterans who will be honored on November 11th. We can never, ever, repay you.