Midwest Musings: Happy Memorial Day!
Happy Memorial Day! Some people celebrate the day with parades and placing flowers and wreaths on family graves. Others go camping. My son and his family and my sister and BIL annually retreat to their family or friends’ cabins. My husband and I usually remain at home and, if so inclined, clean, repair or build something around the house.
I also have come to see this day as one to look back and be thankful to the generations that came before me.
My father served in the Navy in World War II in the Seabees. CBs – Construction Battalion. They built temporary quarters and outposts in the South Pacific. Perfect job for a young man in his early twenties, who was a carpenter by trade. (Remember the old John Wayne flick, “The Fighting Seabees”?)
He died in his early 60s, before I realized that someday I might want to know more about that period and how it had changed his life. My dad wasn’t one to keep diaries or write things down. It was only when my book club read Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand last year, the story of airman Louis Zamperini, who was downed in the Pacific and his incredible ordeal surviving the horrors of imprisonment, that it dawned on me my own father had been a player on that same stage. Not that he was ever imprisoned, I don’t know if his group was ever close to the fighting, but he lived during and contributed to an important time in this country’s history, and I know virtually nothing about it.
Recently, in the spirit of decluttering my house, I sorted through boxes and boxes of photos that had come my way over the years – graduation photos of relatives I didn’t know, wedding pictures, family gatherings. Too many to retain, especially since most had no meaning. Amongst that group was a collection of black and white photos (many actually appear more brown and white) he’d either taken or received and brought back with him from his tour of duty. I kept a representative sample. Someday, I hope my own children will want them, although I’ve learned, that probably won’t happen until they reach my current age and, sensing their own mortality, want to know how they are connected to the past as well as what legacy they themselves will leave behind.
What better way to dedicate this post to my father and the others, who not only served in the Armed Forces in World War II but also lived through it, than to share some of his photos with you?
My dad returned from the war, already married to my mother, and they settled down back in their hometown of Burlington, Iowa. I was born and grew up there. Although he could have gone on to college on the GI Bill, he felt he needed to get back into the workforce immediately to support his growing family. My dad remained a carpenter for a couple decades. That’s the man I knew as I grew up. He worked for a small residential construction company. Somewhere in that experience is the nugget that inspired the trilogy I’m currently writing about a residential development project in Iowa. I’ve finished the rough drafts of Books 1 and 2, which describe the pre-construction and construction phases. When it comes time to write the dedications for those two books, you can bet memories of my dad will play a big role.