Daddy served in the Pacific theatre during World War II on a submarine that was more like a prize in a cereal box than the sleek, nuclear vessels of today. When I was a kid I thought he was a great adventurer, having seen both oceans during his travels. It never occurred to me there might be more to see; more water than two oceans could hold. My boundaries were limited by the amount of space I could imagine, and I was already pushing the envelope. Dad would laugh and shake his head at my excitement when he talked about being stationed on Hawaii or seeing Mount Fuji through the periscope.
“Did you ever see the Hollywood sign?” I asked once, my voice filled with wide-eyed wonder.
He grinned. “If I had, I’d have been going the wrong direction.”
When I was older, he sent for a copy of a Reader’s Digest book that showed all sorts of wonderful places to visit. That book visited more exotic getaways on the way to my mailbox, than I have to this day. I’m not sure I believed it was real.
One year after I was grown and somewhat of an Authority on The Way Things Are, Son One conducted an interview with his Papa for a school report. He didn’t ask the same questions I’d gone on about as a kid, “Where did you go?” “Did you bring anything back in case you ever had a little girl that needed a surprise?”
He asked about torpedo tubes, leaky oxygen bottles, depth charges and other things that made the war seem uncomfortably close and noisy. It finally seeped into my me-generation brain that if the folks causing the unpleasantness on top of the water had taken a page from Luke “Stay on Target” Skywalker’s book, I wouldn’t be around today to tell clever stories about other people’s adventures.
For the first time I realized that tour of duty didn’t mean tour of luxury vacation spots. It meant that he did indeed bring something back from his travels. Memories.
My memories come from sitting in the comfort of Daddy’s lap and listening to tales of a faraway war. His memories come from standing in the face of danger and showing his heart.
His memories are of men who gave their lives so that I could look at pictures in a book and have hopes of traveling to them one day. Men and women that knew what it meant to serve with mind and body and make whatever sacrifice it took to preserve the minds and bodies back home.
My thanks go out to all of these men and women. And to you, Dad.
On Memorial Day and every day.