Proud Daughter of a U. S. Marine
Veterans Day is my favorite national holiday because I am the daughter of a U.S. Marine. Great veterans have surrounded me all my life. My husband was in the Air Force, my brother-in-law the USMC and the majority of my uncles were all veterans. Growing up, and even as an adult, I yearned to know more about their serving experiences, but I respected that it was their topic alone to talk about or not talk about. I respected that choice and them.
Maybe many vets don’t talk about their experiences out of not wanting to revisit a place where loss and pride share space. A place that tears at their heart and is only a breath away. A place reserved for those who either served themselves or some family member did.
Not too long ago I had a special encounter with a veteran who did want to talk about his serving time and then some. We were both standing in line at the pharmacy when he spontaneously tipped his cap to me. Seriously, I don’t go to CVS to make friends but somehow, that day, I did. His smile, along with his proudly displayed vet’s hat, engaged me. Because he looked far too young to have been in WWII, I asked him.
“Yes, I was in the Navy and this was my ship.” He pointed directly to his hat. “Spent a good deal of time in New Guinea and the South Pacific.” He was tall, tan and handsome. I thought he must have been just a kid back then.
“You look too young to have been in World War II,” I retorted. He smiled again, chuckled a little, and responded that he wasn’t young enough to play golf anymore. A small silence ensued; then I told him my father was a 3rd Marine Division Sergeant during World War II who fought in the Pacific Islands. His eyes widened and that’s when he mentioned he was also in Guadalcanal. That's also when a young boy’s expression of surprise and wonder flashed across his memorable features. It was one of those heart-stopping moments that hung in the air, sweet and delicate, like honeysuckle.
“Who knows, young lady," he said breathlessly, "maybe your father and I were on the same beaches!”
“Yes, maybe you were.” I shook my head up and down pondering. After he glanced momentarily away, his WWII blue eyes looked straight into my I’m-the-proud-daughter-of-a-WWII-Marine blue eyes. Then, like an F-14, his eyes locked solemnly onto my face.
“My brother didn’t make it back; he was killed in Europe.”
Now I felt like crying. “I’m sorry for you,” I whispered “and for your poor mother and father, too.”
That’s when he said in a voice ever so low I strained to hear him, “That was a long time ago.”
I responded, “Well, yes, but thank you, Sir, for all that you did for our country.” Now I think he was ready to cry. I gently touched his arm – sometimes encounters of importance go this fast on life’s spiritual highway. He looked at me then, nodded his head up and down and said,
“It was an important time.”
“Yes it was,” I responded with the reverence in my voice that mirrored my soul. “Semper fi, sir.”
“Anchors aweigh, sweet lady.”
This article was published in the SandPaper Novemeber 6 2014
Aronimink & Greene Countrie Living Magazine November 2016