I had a difficult time thinking of a “red” photo for this week’s photo challenge. As I was looking through my photo files, I came across the Honor Flight trip to DC that my Dad took last May. The sea of red jackets made me realize, with Memorial Day coming up, what a perfect photo this was this week.My dad turns 85 in August. In 1944, he was one of thousands of young men needed as WWII headed into its final days. He had turned 18 in August 1944, but he still had one year of high school to go. So he was deferred until the end of his first semester of senior year, and then he went into the Navy. He remembers playing a high school basketball game one Friday night in January (and winning, of course), and heading out on a train to a Naval training base the next morning.
By the time he was stationed on an aircraft carrier off the West Coast, the war was coming to a close. He was lucky in that respect — he saw little action. It still was a life-changing experience for him — and one that made him appreciate the actions of so many other young soldiers.
Especially that of his older brother, Tom, who had been drafted into the Army and sent to Europe two years earlier. Tom, a Purple Heart recipient, recently told his story in a video that was taped for a war memorial program in Colorado, where he now lives. His memories of the close combat and wretched conditions in northern Europe, and later in Berlin, are gut-wrenching. It becomes even more horrifying to think that he and so many he fought with and against were just teenagers.
When the war ended — like so many men their age — my Dad and Tom went about their lives, marrying, raising families, getting involved in their communities, and trying so hard to make their own worlds safe and secure.As Memorial Day nears, I think about the red crepe paper poppies that the American Legion used to sell and we kids would wear to the wreath ceremony at the town cemetery. I think about my father, who was always there in his Legion uniform. And, last year, he called and told me he still got dressed in that uniform (or at least parts of it) and went to the cemetery . I don’t know if he will try again this year though . He said he stood so long at attention last year that it was hard for him to move his legs afterwards.Oh, what a hold memory has on us all.