At the senior living facility where I now live we had a veteran’s pinning ceremony, where the veterans were presented with plaques and flag pins, honoring their service. What a touching afternoon it was as we remembered and honored them and even the spouses.
After 9/11 I realized that the younger generation had never developed the kind of patriotism that we developed over the years of having experienced WWII, Korea, and Viet Nam. Thus in 2013 I wrote the following for my children and perhaps grandchildren.
I REMEMBER…… May 26, 2013
Once again I watched the Memorial Day Celebration in Washington, D.C. on PBS, and thought it might be interesting to share my memories of the wars I’ve experienced.
My memories of WWII begin when I was about 6. We were living in Fort Stockton, TX. My daddy worked at the barber shop at the air base there. It was one that had been closed but was re-opened for pilot training—B-25’s, as I recall. Those young pilots were being shipped off to Europe as quickly as they finished training. Daddy often invited some of them home for dinner right before they shipped out. After we had been in Fort Stockton a few months, my Aunt Margaret came to stay with us, having also gotten a job at the air base. Occasionally she had suitors who also came to the house. I remember going around singing the Air Force song, “Off we go into the wild blue yonder….” Actually it was the Army Air Corp at that time.
Our radios were on every evening, seeking the most updated news reports; there were always short newsreels at the movie of the action.
As we drove around town, we saw large stars in windows, indicating that the family had a service member in the war. A gold star meant that a member had been killed. A blue star denoted a family member in the service. How proudly the families displayed those stars.
Many food items were rationed. I recall that we had a coupon book for sugar, butter and flour and probably some other items. When those coupons were used up, there was no more until the next coupon book. Gas was rationed. I recall a sticker on the windshield urging us to only drive 35 mph or less to conserve gas. We had scrap metal drives and bought war bonds. Mother sat in the evening sewing up the runs in her nylon stockings, for all the nylon fabric was used for parachutes. Ladies knitted bandages for the hospitals. We grew victory gardens.
My Uncle Ed and three of mother’s cousins had either volunteered or been drafted. Uncle Ed was in the South Pacific with the Seabees, the other three in Europe with the Army. I remember Mother sitting and crying as she read letters from them. At a family reunion perhaps 15 years ago I interviewed the three cousins about their experiences, and each of them at perhaps ages 60-70 still remembered their service numbers, despite the fact that none of them remained in the service after their initial tour of duty. When I saw the movie, “Pearl Harbor”, some of Uncle Ed’s stories came to life as I saw the airfields that were built on those Pacific islands from the steel grids laid on sand.
I would have been 9 at the end of the war and remember turning cartwheels in the front yard to celebrate.
Thankfully there were many years of peace until the Korean conflict. I don’t have strong recollections from that time, being so involved in college, first year of teaching, getting married. But in 1960 my husband, Cliff, an Army pilot, received orders to Korea to participate in the peace keeping mission. He left from Oakland on our first anniversary, and I had just found out I was pregnant on the drive from Fort Riley, KS, to California.
Cliff’s role was flying reconnaissance missions along the 38th parallel, making sure that North Korea was not crossing that line. He flew the L-19 Bird dog, a single-engine aircraft, which the Army phased out after a few years, only using helicopters. Our first child was six months old when he returned from his 13-month tour of duty in Korea.
After that Korean tour, he was stationed at Fort Rucker, Alabama, where he instructed in the L-19 training division. Flying that small aircraft in and out of short airfields was excellent training for the next years in mission aviation. Friendships formed from those Army days that I still hold very dear. There is such a tight bond with the military family. We still mourn those peers whose names are inscribed on the Viet Nam memorial in Washington, D. C. and celebrate those who returned, although often quite seriously injured.
Mother’s and Daddy’s world was so greatly expanded as they met young men from all over the United States while being employed at Goodfellow AFB in San Angelo, TX until retirement. Daddy probably invited every young man who sat in his barber chair to church and as a result drove through the base every Sunday morning to pick up any who were waiting at the bus stop. They were also usually invited home for Sunday dinner. Mother and Daddy kept up with many of those young men as long as they lived; some of them rented the upstairs apartment, and two actually lived with Mother and Daddy as they completed their first two years of college.
This “telling” explains my intense patriotism, which became even deeper as we lived in third-world countries. We were living in Brazil when Watergate news broke. How sad we felt about what was going on in the U.S. However, a language school instructor put it in perspective when he stated, “In any other country had this happened, there would have been a military coup or such, but America has the systems established to orderly handle this type of crisis.” That is a comforting reflection for my world today.