Every Veterans Day is a day to remember my father, who served in the U.S. Marines in WWII. He was 20 years old when he was drafted. He mostly saw action in the Philippines and was also sent to China for a time. I have pictures of my father on the Great Wall of China, and also a piece of silk with a dragon embroidered on it he brought back and ended up with me. Dad saw horrible things during the war, and never spoke about it very much at all. But he was always very proud to be a Marine.
From my father’s stories I began to realize that historical accounts, whether of an event or conflict, often didn’t reflect the stories men and women told who had been on the battlefields or the aftermath. Or, the effect of war and its mayhem on the people on the ground both inside and outside. My father, who I would say was a pretty brave guy, could not sleep without a light for several years after getting home, and until the day he died at 67 he needed to have a radio on to fall asleep at night. He thought this came from doing guard duty in complete darkness and silence, with the knowledge a lot of Marines had their throats cut walking the same perimeters.
He returned home to Elizabeth, New Jersey as an amputee. Since he lost his right hand during the war, his dream to be a commerical fisherman was over, and he had to make another living. He also had to learn to write with his left hand. Dad went to Rutgers University on the G. I. Bill and became in English teacher. At some point he acquired his father’s pen, which was a dip pen in a black bakelite inkwell. Dad used this all through his decades of teaching to grade papers and write comments. I never saw him use anything but burgundy ink. When I was little I would stand by his desk and try to very carefully write my name with the pen and ink I thought was so grownup.
When my father passed away–20 years ago this month–at his behest I received his college ring and the pen set. They are among my most treasured possessions. The pen is on my writing desk, so it’s always in view as I write or ponder. In honor of my father I never use anything in it but burgundy ink.
Today is the day to remember–and to thank–all the veterans who have served our country with honor and courage. There was sacrifice involved on many levels, sacrifice that can often not be undone or healed. To all the veterans who read or participate on this blog, a special thanks to you, and I hope you feel our admiration and respect.