Monday, November 12, 2012
As those of you who've been reading me for a long time already know, my father served in the U.S. Army Air Corps in the South Pacific theatre of operations during World War II. At Midway, he was on a plane that got one of its engines shot out. With half a tank of gas, they headed for Hawaii to get it fixed. They heard an air raid siren and calculated there might be just enough fuel to get there. As they started taxiing out, a piece of shrapnel went through the "tail tire." The plane took off with the three engines operating. As they came off the runway, the tail of the plane went into the ocean and picked up 25 feet of phone line from Midway. Fortunately for me and my four brothers and sisters, he lived to tell the tale. He died in March of 2000, carrying most of his war stories with him to the grave. He never glorified his role in the war - I didn't even know anything about it until I was 15 years old. And even then he didn't talk about it much. The folks who've been there know that there's no glory in war - it's just a lot of regular guys trying to do the best they can under horrific circumstances. I can count on one hand the times I saw my father cry in the 43 years that I knew him. Only one time was it not associated with reminders of the war (that time was related to my grandmother). The most wrenching moment was when my ex-husband gave him a model of a B-17 or B-27 bomber - I'm afraid I can't remember which. It brought back so many memories for him, as he was a machinist's mate and his job was to keep the planes in working order. I know that a lot of today's volunteers join up for a chance to escape from poverty - I saw it so many times as the recruiters visited the high school where I worked in SC for 25 years. Others buy the line about seeing the world, learning a skill. Some do it for the promise of money for education. And yes, there are still a lot who feel that it's their patriotic duty to save their country from The Bad Guys. But I firmly believe that most of them haven't the slightest idea what they're signing up for. If they knew The Truth, the numbers would be a lot lower.