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Thoughts on Veteran's Day

My father served in the military – albeit not for long. When I asked him once how long he was in the navy he said something to the effect of “three years, eleven months, and twenty-seven days.” I don’t know if he really knows that or not, or if it was strictly for dramatic effect. Either way – one term, and I’ve never gotten the impression that he had any desire to re-up. He left the navy and went on to work for IBM, back when they were International Business Machines, married a widow with two little boys, and eventually had a daughter.

He joined back in the early ‘60s. The navy has always seemed like an odd choice for a kid from Minnesota, but I’ve never asked him why, and it occurs to me on this Veteran’s Day that I actually know very little about his military service. Part of that is possibly because a lot of it is probably still classified – he worked with the encryption equipment, which is one of the few things I DO know about what he did. Even a letter of commendation he received praised his work with “certain electronic equipment,” and nothing more specific than that. He’s always found it amusing that he worked in a place where “surprise” inspections had to be pre-announced to ensure that things the inspector (or the Captain, for that matter) had no need to know weren’t accessible.

I don’t know where else he may have been, but I know that he was on the USS Northampton from 1961 to 1963 as an ET2 in OE Division. Nervous times – the Bay of Pigs, the Cuban Missile Crisis, and a visit by President Kennedy. I truly believe that his life-long loathing of the Kennedy family had its genesis from that ship-board visit. He once mentioned that during the Bay of Pigs landing the Second Fleet went to General Quarters, and it wasn’t a drill. Given the times, that had to be terrifying.

I should probably ask him all these questions. Along with things like “How come I never knew that I had a Great-Aunt Catherine who had the same heart arrhythmia that I have?” For as much noise as my family makes, we apparently don’t talk much.

At any rate, my slightly incoherent point on this Veterans’ Day/Armistice Day/Remembrance Day – by whichever name you pause and reflect on the men and women who serve – is: thanks dad. Love you.

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( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
pippagrey
Nov. 11th, 2014 10:47 pm (UTC)
We've been putting my husband's family into the family tree online, and I've realized that I've got ancestors by blood or marriage in pretty much everything this country's been involved in from the beginning except for Korea and possibly the War of 1812. It is rather humbling to think what those men went through and why.

I run into folks online who get upset that others (like me) get Memorial Day and Veteran's Day confused. However, the whole point in the poppies is to remember the dead, and in Europe this day is for them. My college chapel had a service in our Hall of Remembrance every year at the beginning of the Sunday service nearest the 11th. For what was, at the time, a fairly small school, there are a lot of names engraved on those marble walls.

Every year I try to get a new poppy, and every year it gets harder and harder to find anyone selling them, I guess because those generations are dying out.
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