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.