Sunday, November 25, 2007
After Tarawa, the Zeilin sailed back to California for refitting. It was during this visit that my mother and father met during a USO dance. The war kept them apart for a bit longer when the Zeilin sailed again to the shores of Kawajalein Atoll delivering the 7th Infantry Division into the jaws of death. After this last assault, my dad having served in a combat zone for two years was sent back to the states for rest and recuperation. During this time he married my mother. The next assignment was to the new aircraft carrier Bon Homme Richard being fitted out on the East Coast. My Dad joined her and became a plank owner, (first crew). The ship sailed for the Pacific in early 1945. They arrived in time for the final months of combat around Japan. The service record that I was able to obtain from the Navy, relate those final months in a single sentence. "Participated in 15 air strikes against targets in Japan, final strike recalled due to surrender."
My father returned to a world where he felt was a different person. The scars of war had left him emotionally wounded. He took a job driving a long-haul truck and partied like a rock-star. The toll on the marriage was fatal. The last time I saw him was during a visit when I was about 5 years old. He was wearing Levi's and a white shirt under a fringed leather jacket that was popular in the fifties, he hugged me and said he'd be back, I watched him as he walked away down the street never to return. I went fifty years wondering why.
The history I uncovered about his life during the war, and the stories that Vince, my long lost brother relayed to me brought his life into focus. My Dad, like thousands of other dads and young men who never would become dads, paid a price to rid the world of totalitarianism.
I never had the chance to tell my father how proud I was of his service and how much I loved him; in this little way I make that declaration to his soul.