Monday, November 11, 2013

Honouring my Favourite Veterans: my family

I was born in Washington D.C., America's capital city, in 1949, four years after the end of World War II.

The war may have been over, but its memories were not.  It lived on in the tales and lives of those who had been there, done that.  It lived on in the impact it had had on their lives.  It lived on in the very atmosphere of the city I was born and lived in, the nation's capital.  A very real presence.

Mostly the tales were of rationing, of the difficulty of finding a place to live for two newlyweds.

Little was ever spoken about what life in the military was like.  So much of the heritage has been lost.  But the pictures remain.  The pride remains.  Our freedom remains.

My parents wedding picture, 1944
My father had a heart condition and was deemed unfit for military service.  In those days, not wearing a uniform was like being branded with the scarlet letter.  Very noticeable.  And very objectionable.  Those males of a certain age who could not serve were looked at as inferior, as chicken.

My father, therefore, became what he always denigrateingly called a "weekend warrior:"  a man with a full-time day job who served his country by putting on a uniform three or four days a week without pay to guard his country's coast from enemy invasion.  He never really talked about it except in a deprecating way.  In fact, I was always led to believe that these were joy trips around the harbour.  Yet, these men were America's first line of defence against enemy invasion.  (I found this link while trying to find out more about those men like my father who volunteered as weekend warriors The US Home Front 1941-45)

My Uncle Tom, undated photo

Similarly, my Uncle Tom never talked, at least in my hearing, about his military service.  Unlike my father, he saw active duty.  Like my father, though, he had to fight his way to get into the military.  Why?  I'm not sure if he had flat feet or if it was his height - or rather lack thereof.  All I know is that he was a radio operator.  Not where he served.  What he did.

Neither did my Uncle Lanier talk about his time in the service.  I only discovered that he had been in the military a few years back when his hearing was going and he said it was from being a part of a crew in a bomber during WWII.  

Again, it has only been within recent history that I discovered that my grandfather was part of the Manhattan project.  However, there was good reason for that.  Those records were sealed.  The participants sworn to an oath of secrecy.  It is only now when most of those who worked on that project have long since died that their names can be released.  Even to their relatives.  As a child growing up, I only knew that the had been involved in "war work" - whatever that meant.

Ina goes to Washington
My mother also chose to serve.  Women were not allowed in the active military.  In fact, most of the branches were creating their own sub branch for women.  These women, like my mother, mostly served in offices thus freeing up the men to go overseas and do the "real" work - or so I think these spirited young women like my mom thought.  I think they were made to feel superfluous in some ways. Yet, they too served their country - on the home front.  They did the real work of keeping supplies moving.

My mother's class of WAVES (undated)
Today I want to honour all those, past and present, who have (or are currently) served both of my countries:  the U.S., land of my birth and heritage; and Canada, my adopted country.

Thank You.

1 comment:

  1. You have a rich history! So neat to have those old photos and bits of stories. I love the picture of your parents - your dad looks a little mischievous :) Thanks for sharing!