Honoring Dad on Memorial Day

Southport (Maine) Memorial Library on Memorial Day 2012

My dad, part of the Greatest Generation, never wanted to be thanked for his service to the country. I tried once, and he did a “brush-away” motion with his hand and murmured something to dismiss the subject. He had been a lieutenant with duties of supply officer and paymaster on board the U.S.S. Heermann in World War II. He survived the Battle off Samar (in Phillippines), and the only story he’d tell was a funny one, I imagine to help him keep the painful memories at bay.

The battle, including his funny story, was written up in a book by James D. Hornfischer, The Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors (“tin can” was the nickname for a destroyer). Dad gave that book to each of us kids when it was published, in 2004. It was the only way he could tell us anything close to his true experience. If you’re ever looking for another reason to say why books should keep getting published, remember that one.

Hornfischer’s book is not a memoir, but it helped me to fill in the blanks my dad wouldn’t touch. It helped me comprehend the devastation, the enormity of war, and why my dad focused on everything but, the rest of his long life. He focused on family, on responsibility, and on enjoying his time. He created a life for his kids that helped us believe the world was a good place.

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2 Responses to Honoring Dad on Memorial Day

  1. Another reason why books should be published is to provide a space for one to pen a meaningful sentiment when gifting the book to another. Though I will not say what Dad wrote to me, it meant so much and it will always be there in tangible form to read and read again.

    • I agree, Nancy! And too often these days people don’t write a sentiment in the front, I think because they are afraid the recipient may already have the book and/or want to pass the book along to others. Dad didn’t have to worry about either of those possibilities, did he. (By the way, he didn’t write a thing in mine. Hmmm.)

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