I’m remembering my Mom and Dad especially today, Veteran’s Day. Though their paths wouldn’t cross until a few years after WWII, they lead parallel lives of commitment, love of country, duty, and service.
As a young girl, I can remember my parents telling me stories of the grave situations our country faced at the brink of World War II. And yet, it was a time of great unity in our nation, when ordinary people would be called to extraordinary duty and sacrifice.
Just some of the stories I remember them telling me…
Huddled around the radio, in an address to the nation, President Roosevelt told civilians that, like the brave soldiers who would be fighting, they, as Americans had a “grave responsibility to the nation, now and for the duration of this war.” On the home front, all American citizens willingly endured shortages of consumer products and food rations, especially of meat, butter, and sugar.
It’s what you did for love of country.
The automobile industry came to a halt as the government simply told manufacturing plants that they could no longer produce cars. For the remainder of the war, they would be manufacturing tanks, planes, and other military supplies. On a much lighter note, women gave up wearing nylon stockings and silk as these materials were needed to make parachutes. My Mom would gently smile and tell me how ladies would camouflage their lack of stylish hosiery by painting a seam up the back of their bare legs.
The necessities sacrificed by average American citizens were great, but the need for military personnel was even greater. Many young men, some just graduating from high school, received draft notices, transforming them from just kids into soldiers on their way to defend against the ravages of Hitler.
They would secured freedom not only for these Americans, but for future generations.
Many of these courageous men would be severely injured or pay the ultimate price of freedom with their own young lives.
Just a week after the surprise attack, December 7, 1941, Pearl Harbor, approximately 11,000 men enlisted in the Navy and thousands upon thousands more in the other branches of military. Since most men were away fighting the war, women joined the workforce in order to keep things running effectively both home and abroad. Some women would enlist and work as nurses, clerks, drivers, mechanics, and pilots, freeing men to fight in combat. Some woman worked so close to the combat zone, they were killed, wounded, or captured. My Mom, at the young age of 21, chose to join the U.S. Navy Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Services (Navy WAVES). She was assigned secretarial work in Washington D.C. with highly classified information, though she had absolutely no idea of what it all entailed. My Dad, who was in his late twenties, on his way to being sworn into the Police Force, was told, “Come back when the war is over.” After boot camp, he would head to England and France, and was miraculously spared, though extremely physically fit, from front line fighting. Maybe it was because he was older than most the other guys. We really don’t know. I can’t help but think it was ultimately the answer to the unceasing prayers of my Grandmother and Aunt. The military would give him quick training in physical therapy and medicine. He told me of surgeries he would perform on wounded soldiers that shouldn’t be attempted today by anyone but a surgeon!
But war requires much of a person… the deepest stretching of self.
Mostly, my Dad didn’t share too many of these somber stories with me as he had seen first hand the ravish of war upon the human body and the souls of men.
Truly, this was a resilient generation…. some call it the “Greatest Generation.” A generation who lived through the Great Depression, served faithfully, had a deep sense of family pride, matured quickly, labored hard, all the while staying true to their values of personal responsibility, duty, honor, and faith.
To the legacy of all these brave men and woman and so many others who before and after would walk similar roads for love of country and sacrifice for the gift of freedom,
I thank you.