I always find it a little jarring when someone wishes me a "Happy Memorial Day." I grew up hearing that Memorial Day was a solemn occasion of remembrance, not a fun holiday like Fourth of July. Even Veteran's Day is happier, because it celebrates all veterans, not just those who lost their lives in wartime.
Even though I am a g*dd*mn hippie liberal peacemonger, I am still a big sappy crybaby when it comes to soldiers. I am truly amazed and appreciative that people have the courage to risk their lives for something above their own interests.
In honor of my father, and those who died fighting the Nazis with him in World War II, my dad's induction story:
My dad was born in 1918, which made him a little bit older than the average recruit when the United States joined the war in Europe. He was determined to go and enlisted, but the Army lost his enlistment papers. Twice. He could have just disappeared in those days before computers, but he really wanted to serve his country.
During the time he was waiting to be inducted, he built warships in Long Beach, California, working as a welder, as did several of his brothers.
Finally he quit his job, sold his car and turned up at the induction center with the clothes on his back and $5 in his pocket. He said "You HAVE to induct me now - I have nowhere else to go." That is classic Dad behavior - taking matters into his own hands. So they took him.
He trained in Oklahoma, then crossed the Atlantic on the former luxury liner the USS United States and was an Army Master sergeant in France, Belgium and Germany, including the Battle of the Bulge. His job was to take the big guns up to the front and make sure they worked so that other people could fire at the enemy.
He never mentioned the war once to me until 1984, which I remember because we were watching the Olympics on TV and, seeing the huge fireworks display, he started talking about how loud battle was. He said during the Battle of the Bulge, the guns were fired so much that their barrels glowed red in the darkness.
In honor of Memorial Day, I'd like to thank my dad and all the other veterans out there for their service, and to remember those who did not come home. May all those who are serving in the military and working as contractors come home alive and well.