Last year on Veteran's Day, I posted a picture of my father , circa 1980 something, during one of his many tours of duty. He was in the United States Navy from 1978-1993 (? on the ending date), and it's one of my favorite pictures of him, even though I don't have any idea when/where he is in the picture. I was lucky enough to get the picture from three of his on-ship buddies when we met with them a few years back, & they couldn't remember where they might have been (although the consensus was that it was probably the Mediterranean). My father passed away 10 years ago, and our relationship was incredibly complex. But those men remembered him, and thought well enough of him to try to look him up 15-20 years after they had served together. They thought well enough of him to contact my brother, my sister and I and to arrange a meeting with us, after they found out he had died. They brought us pictures and stories and I will always appreciate them for doing it, because so many of my happy memories of my daddy have long been overshadowed by some of his more atrocious behavior during his last years on earth. Regardless of all that, though, I do know that he served his country well and that he worked diligently for many of his years in the service.
I have always been proud to be a sailor's daughter, even when I wasn't proud of the sailor himself. I have pictures of his burial at sea, a few pictures of him in his uniform, but instead I'm going to choose another picture that his friends gave us when we met them. Here he is in the tiny little quarters on ship, being a goof:
My family has a long history of service, actually: My Nana's father was in the Navy, and served during World War I aboard the USS Mt Vernon. Originally a seized German ship, the Mt Vernon was torpedoed by the Germans in September of 1918, while James (my great-grandfather) was serving. Although luckily uninjured, he was sent back to the US following the attack, and served at a Naval Hospital (which is, coincidentally, right around the corner from the new house) near Boston until he was discharged. Here is a photo of the ship's crew I found online - He's in there somewhere:
And here he is up close, in uniform:
My other maternal great-grandfather, (my grandfather's father) also served during what his discharge papers call "The World War" as a Wireman and a Private in the United States Army from 1917-1919. (Unfortunately I don't have any photos of him in his uniform, and actually only two or three pictures of him at all.) And his son, my mother's father, my Papa, served in the Army during WWII: All I know about his service is that he was a driver in a convoy going up the narrow mountain roads (in Northern Africa, maybe?) and the truck in front of him was hit, and drove right over the edge of the mountain. When he came back from the war, he never drove again. Here he is at the very end of the chow line (and not nearly as excited as some of his fellow troops):
On my father's side, three of his brothers served in various armed forces; all of my great-uncles and two of my great-aunts served during WWII (my Grandfather was the only child (of 7) who could not); Both of my Grandmother's brothers fought during the Battle of the Bulge - One of her brothers was a medic, and later told her that his biggest fear was that he would be running through the battlefield and be called to a soldier only to see it was his brother - thankfully that did not happen, and they both made it back safely; And the oldest American Veteran in my family (that I am aware of) was my great-great-Grandfather - my Grandmother's grandfather - who was killed in a flash flood after enlisting in the Union Army.
I'm lucky enough now that none of my uncles, aunts or cousins are serving any longer, but I can remember how scared I was during the first Gulf War, knowing that my father was over there serving. I can specifically remember flipping off the Nintendo one afternoon and CNN was on, and they were showing the live bombings, and I was frozen in fear, worrying that one of those fighting might have been my father, and that something horrible could happen to him. I cannot explain how much gratitude I have for those who are serving, and for their families. Today and always: Thank you.