Tag Archives: World War II

Thoughts from the Treadmill: Veteran Memories

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Veteran Memories

While I was cleaning out dresser drawers this past summer in preparation for putting our house on the market, I refound my father’s dog tag from World War II. This memento came my way from my stepmother following my father’s death at age 61 several years ago. My intent was to retain it for my it son until he was older and could better appreciate what the tag stood for, since he was only three at the time. I thought of handing them over when my son turned eighteen, then twenty-one, twenty-five, thirty. Unfortunately, when those events came to pass, I was unable to locate the tag, having put it away for safekeeping and succeeded so well, even I couldn’t find it.

Photo by Leslie Sloan

Photo by Leslie Sloan

Over the years, I would come across the tag from time to time, remember my vow to hand it over to my son on some important occasion and then put it away only to lose track of it again.

Richard Youngman circa 1944

My dad, circa 1944

It’s important the next generation appreciate the significance of something as mundane as dog tags, because they represent a time we and the generations to come will never know.  I regret that I didn’t learn more about his military service from my dad while he was still alive. What I do have are numerous photos he brought back from his days as a SeaBee in the South Pacific in the mid-40s. Some of them appeared on this blog  this past Memorial Day. Unfortunately, he didn’t label any of them, and that old black and white photography, sepia in some cases, is somewhat blurry after seventy years. Now I can only piece together some of his story.

My dad was an only child. His younger sister died in infancy. He wasn’t into sports, but from an early age he liked building things. He was twenty-one when World War II broke out. I don’t know if he enlisted or was drafted. All I know is that he wound up in the Navy contributing his skills to the war effort by building barracks and mess halls and all the other accoutrements needed by the military in the South Pacific. An Iowa boy who grew up in a small city on the Mississippi, I doubt he’d ever been out of state let alone been on an airplane or ship, and yet, like so many other of his countrymen at that time, he went off to war, lived in an unfamiliar climate and labored each day amidst the ever-present threat of approaching warfare.

musings seabees groupMy dad was never much of a social animal when I was young. He much preferred staying home and watching television to joining clubs, attending sports events, or entertaining guests. It amazes me how, for a few short years, he was thrown into a totally different lifestyle. Perhaps what he saw during that time and his knowledge of what he fought to defend were the reasons why, when he returned home, he savored life in an easy chair so much.

My dad’s story has been lived by thousands of other veterans, albeit each different in its own right. But every one of them was plucked out of everyday life and thrust into environments and circumstances far beyond their knowledge or prior experience. Today we honor not only those who came back, changed forever, and those who didn’t make it, changing the lives of their loved ones forever. Happy Veterans’ Day.

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Midwest Musings: Happy Memorial Day!

Richard Youngman circa 1944

Richard Youngman circa 1944

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.  musings Dad building

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.  musings worker

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.

musings seabeesmusings seabees groupmusings volcano