Still Thinking About Memorial Day

My father won World War II.

I know this is true because he said so himself.

In cleaning out a drawer (aka procrastinating), I found a slip of paper written by my father for my children to read when they got older. It is entitled "The History of How Your Grandpa Won World War II." Lest you misunderstand, my father was a real character with a great sense of humor. He absolutely idolized Winston Churchill and often quoted him, or misquoted him as the case may be, always adding to the end of Churchill's inspirational words: "... with the help of the Americans."

I do hope you all enjoyed Memorial Day weekend. I did. Hanging with friends, going to a baseball game, eating ice cream, celebrating summer! But in the back of my mind, I kept remembering what the holiday is really about: so many sacrifices by so many people so we can eat burgers and ice cream on a peaceful summer day.

It was really serendipitous that I found this memorial of my father's World War II service on Memorial Day weekend. Thankfully he listed everywhere he fought during the war. He was in the Navy and went from Maine to North Africa, to various ports in Italy, to the South of France, and back to Italy. He returned home for a short time after victory in Europe, and then was deployed again. He went to Florida and then sailed to Anguila, Panama, Hawaii, Guam, Tarawa, Enieweitoc, Marshall Islands, Gilberts Islands, Kwajalein Atoll, Wojte, Iwojima, and Okinawa. I looked up some of these more obscure places and learned a lot about the battles in the Pacific.

My father's World War II generation gave a lot and suffered a lot. But our country did right by them when they came home. They were able to go to college and find jobs. They led pleasant lives and watched their children grow up in peace. They were able to live the lives they fought for.

Somehow, as a country, we have not been able to replicate that for veterans of Vietnam, Iraq, or Afghanistan. I certainly thought that the U.S. had no business in Vietnam or Iraq, and the war in Afghanistan should have had a clear purpose and a faster end. But this is not relevant to how we should welcome troops back home and provide them with the medical care they need and the opportunities they deserve. As a country, we need to get back on track and treat all veterans properly.

Perhaps we have fallen down on this job because wars and their consequences impact just a small percentage of our population, unlike what happened to the World War II generation. The rest of us, including me of course, sacrifice nothing and treat Memorial Day weekend as a celebration of the beginning of summer, just a celebration of summer.

This week marks the 16th anniversary of my father's death. All I can say is: Thank you, Daddy, for your sacrifices so that I could spend Memorial Day eating ice cream at the ballpark.