Wednesday, July 16, 2008
My Dad celebrated his 85th birthday on July 7. Amy, Amanda and I put together a memory box with some of his WWII pictures and souvenirs. In the center of the box is a picture of him when he was 19 years old. It was taken at Marine boot camp in San Diego California. It was the first time he had ever been away from his home in Texas. He was so young. I think about how young 19 is and how I've worried and missed my 19 year old sons who have left home to serve missions so far from home. My grandmother had to say good bye to all three of her sons at the same time and they were gone for more than two years. They volunteered to fight until the war was over. For my Dad, that was almost four years. They all served in different places and they all came home. My Dad was the only one who was wounded. Even when he was shot in the shoulder, he was not sent home. He was sent to a hospital in Hawaii and when he recovered, he was sent back into battle.
Here is a picture of him on deck of a warship cleaning his weapon in preparation for the landing on the Japanese held island of Tarawa. He came ashore in an amphibious tractor like the ones in "Saving Private Ryan". He made it to shore alone after most of the men on his boat were killed getting out and into the water. A sniper fired at him, but the bullet hit his rifle and shattered. The pieces of metal peppered his shoulder. He couldn't feel his arm. The shrapnel is still in his arm today.The rest of the day and night he hid,wounded, in a hole on the beach. He was barely 20 years old. He received the Purple Heart from Admiral Chester Nimitz (yes, the same one they named an aircraft carrier after) who just happened to be in Hawaii the same time as my Dad was in the hospital there. Other items in the memory box are a silver Japanese cigarette case found on the island of Sipan and a statue of three monkeys found in the ashes of Nagasaki .
My Dad was training off the coast of Tokoyo in preparation for the invasion of Japan when the atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. His Marine unit was the first to enter the city after the blast. He was also given a signed paper fan from one of the survivors outside the city. This is also in the memory box.
Making this box has given me an increased appreciation for my father and all the young men who volunteered to serve during the second World War. My favorite war story that my Dad tells is about the time he stood on board a warship one evening and prayed. He asked God to please let him live so that he could some day father a child. He didn't want to die without having the experience of being a father. I am proud and thankful to say I am the answer to that prayer.