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Remembering where we came from

28 May 2012

If it comes as a surprise that I’m very positive on the military, you’re either new to the blog (in which case, hello!) or haven’t been paying much attention (in which case, don’t worry, I do that a lot, too). So you can probably already guess at the point of this post.

Memorial Day is a big one for me this year, as my own father turns 61 this Memorial Day. He’s the reason I’m as positive on the military as I am — and the reason that I do what I do. Since the time I can remember to 1997, my dad was active duty in the U.S. Air Force. His service allowed my family and I to travel the country and the world, and see and experience things a lot of people don’t get to.

I’ve made friends with tons of other military brats, from all branches, and realized pretty quickly that my dad isn’t the standard “military dad.” He wasn’t strict, he didn’t make us call everyone “sir” (I do that anyway), and he didn’t raise us in the way the military trained its recruits. As a result of the joint efforts of him and my mother, I had a pretty freaking great childhood, and that’s something that’s more integral to me as a person than probably anything else.

Sure, Memorial Day came about after the civil war as a way to remember the Union Dead… but just this once, why not remember the past? Your own past? The people and places that shaped who you are? For me, that and the military are intertwined, but if that’s not the case for you, don’t forget to also remember our armed services, reserves, and national guard (if you’re in America, of course), who kind of made all of our pasts possible.

I mean, I think I would remember getting destroyed by a Soviet nuclear strike in 1988… so they did that for us. Which is nice.

So who shaped you, military or not?

2 Comments leave one →
  1. 28 May 2012 0759

    For me it was my maternal grandfather. He wasn’t the best father to my mom and uncle. He was rarely around when they grew up, but he caught up in the end. I remembered glimmers of him when I was younger; the first time I really remembered him was when I visited my great grandmother for the week. He called her (his mom) and found out I was visiting. He dropped everything he was doing to come visit. It was a great week: I got time with my grandmother, and time with him.

    Toward the end of the year in 7th grade, he came to live with us. My sister was out on her own, so he took over her room in the basement. My father was a cool guy, but he lived several states away, and I only saw him here and there. My step father and I didn’t really get along. So, for once, there was somebody in the house I could look up to. I spent a lot of evenings in the basement chatting with Gramps, listening to stories about him growing up, and time spent in the Pacific during WWII.

    He was a Seabee, so the stories he told were about building things. His stories were much different than my father’s father, who fought in Europe and didn’t talk much about it because his stories brought back crappy memories. My mom’s dad, though, loved telling stories — and from the stories he told, it was clear he made the most of a crappy place and situation.

    All my friends loved the guy; he had no problem dragging me to amusement parks and going on any ride I wanted to do on. He sometimes came outside at night when friends and I were playing kick the can and other games, and stayed out late with us, teaching us variations of games, how to cheat the games we played just enough that they become more exciting, and he taught us new games. He sometimes dragged me to work with him, doing odd jobs here and there.

    We’d already moved to Texas from Chicago when he died. Colon cancer. It hit fast, and my mom made it up in time to see him before it was time. In the hospital, she noticed scarring on the side of his body and asked what it was — it was totally new to her. “Oh, Okinawa. We got shelled going in.”

    None of us knew that. He talked about how much fighting even the Seabees did on Okinawa, and how he didn’t come home after the injury…he rested and built things when he was better and fought when necessary. Not once did he tell anyone in the family or friends about that; all his stories were funny stories about rebuilding…things like installing wells in villages and convincing people there was a whole ritual they had to do before they could pump water and watching people pass on this fake ritual to others. No talk at all about fighting, but he opened up and talked about it near the end like, “Oh yeah — I got messed up going into Okinawa and we fought a lot more than you’d imagine for people there to build things.”

    Like your father, he wasn’t the standard military guy (that was my dad’s dad). He just did what he had to do and after it was done, he looked back on it with oddly fond memories of the great people he met in the Pacific, and came back with funny stories instead of the tougher tales to tell. It really wasn’t so much that they were bad memories — he didn’t not want to talk about it like my dad’s dad. He just always tried looking at the bright side of things…and I’m glad he was around enough in 7th to 9th grade to pass that outlook on to me.

    • 30 May 2012 0459

      Awesome. Simply and truly. I would like to have known him.

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