J. D. Pendry
Evín at the brink of danger; not before;
After deliverance, both alike requited,
Our Godís forgotten, and our soldiers slighted. ĖFrances Quarles, 1632
Iím a little late with a Memorial Day thought, but my first blast took me down some paths I havenít traveled in many years.† I remembered much while writing.† So much that I had to let it sit awhile then come back and edit that which was likely a bit to personal for publication here.†
I visited the graves of my parents on Memorial Day.† When they married, she was 15 and he was 21.† They were together just short of 50 years when my mother died in 1989.† I, along with my wife and some of my siblings, cleaned up the twin headstone and added fresh flowers.† Then I cleaned off the granite foot marker that reads Hudson G. Pendry, S1, United States Navy, World War II and placed a fresh American flag in the vases on each side of the headstone.†
My father never spoke to us much about his wartime service.† Something I find common with veterans of his time.† Itís as if they had a sense of humility that was not passed on to the generations that followed them.† They never asked for much and never expected much.† Maybe thatís why they are only now getting a memorial.† I did manage during my lifetime to pry a couple of stories from him, however.† He served in the Pacific and told me a story about how on a Sunday morning he and his shipmates downed 11 Japanese Kamikaze aircraft.† He said they all approached his ship along the same flight path one at a time.† He also told me a story about an acetylene tank falling over and breaking his foot getting him detailed to shore duty until it healed, and how his torpedoed ship sank shortly after his shore duty began.† He told another story about spending much time standing at attention on the shipís deck when President Roosevelt died.
My father enlisted into the Navy right after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor.† He was 23 years old with a wife and son.† I have his discharge, yellowed by age, hanging on the wall.† Resting on the windowsill beside it is the flag presented to me by the American Legion Honor Guard who gave military honors at the funeral.† I spent some years at Fort Myer, Virginia.† While there, I observed, and participated in, too many funeral services Ė mostly for old veterans like my Dad.† No one does it better than the soldiers of the 3d US Infantry Regiment, known as The Old Guard, but even they would have been impressed by the American Legion Honor Guard comprised of old veterans.† At the cemetery, I saw many American flags.† From curiosity, I looked at a few of the markers near my fatherís grave.† Not to my surprise, most were WWII veterans.
I owe a lot to my father, as we do to his generation, that I can never repay.† All I can do is try to be as committed to a family and way of life as he was for all of his years.† He was the oldest of seven children.† His father died young in a coalmining accident.† When he was 15 years old, he supported his family by himself working as a coalminer.† When he died in 1994 at age 76, it was from black lung disease caused by years of breathing coal dust.† My fatherís generation brought us through the Great Depression, defended us during the only war that had any real potential of spilling over on to the continental United States, then came home and built the strongest, freest country on the globe.† All veterans since have preserved what they made possible.† For those reasons we must never allow their sacrifices and contributions to be forgotten.
During my years at Fort Myer, I would often take my morning run by the Vietnam War Memorial and the newer Korean War Memorial.† Both are well-deserved tributes to the fallen veterans of those wars.† I never studied the issue, but was curious about why there was no WWII memorial.† I suppose thereíll be one now, once all of the wrangling stops.† I also made many trips to Arlington National Cemetery.† Tourists go to the Tomb of the Unknowns to watch the impressive changing of the guard without giving much thought to what they are guarding and the sacrifice made by those men ďknown only to their GodĒ and their families.
Last summer, I visited my hometown for the first time in many years.† At the old county court house, I read the names, familiar to me from my childhood, on the Vietnam War Memorial thatís there.† In the town where my father lived for many years, there is a tiny War Memorial in the park.† His name is on it.† A few days ago, one of our local veterans, from the war to end all wars went to his final recall.† He was 105 years old.† Our World War II veterans will also be gone too soon.† Only about one fourth of their number remains. One of them is my neighbor Charles.† He is 83, the same age as my father.† Charles is a veteran of Normandy.† An American flag flies from a pole in his yard.††
We cannot allow Americans to forget the sacrifices made by all veterans of all our nationís conflicts.† Most Americans it seems only associate Memorial Day with a long weekend, a sale at the mall, the Indianapolis 500, or the beginning of the beach and barbecue season.† Too many do not know the true purpose for the day and if it wasnít a national holiday, it would likely not get any attention at all.†
The end of the draft in the 70ís and downsizing of our military in the 90ís equals fewer veterans in the civil or political leadership of our country now and in the future.† Our news media gladly covers stories such as the one brought to light by John Kerry recently or the chemical weapons lie put forth by CNN a few years ago.† Theyíll spend time on Jane Fonda or the atrocity of Mi Lai, but rarely will they run a story on the sacrifice of a single soldier, sailor, airman or marine. Much attention was paid to Pearl Harbor recently, but Iím curious if it was a true remembrance or was it publicity for the recent Hollywood depiction of events.
Our country faces no major enemy or threat as it did during the cold war.† As Mr. Quarles stated in his quote it is this time when soldiers past and present are slighted.† We must all take time to remember, but most importantly, we must take every opportunity to ensure others understand and remember.