My father was a NAVY veteran of WWII. He joined in 1937. It was a frigid winter on Long Island as he tells about that winter. He was a clammer on Great South Bay. The bay was frozen solid. People actually drove their cars out onto the ice and rode across the bay to Fire Island that year. Dad and the other men of our town cut big, gapping holes in the ice and stood on planks of wood so that their feet didn’t freeze in their boot.
One day, the conditions and market prices broke dad’s spirit for the thing he loved best. “I threw down my tongs, walked off the bay with Zindy (his best friend) and join the Navy.” The men were only getting sixty cents for a bushel of clams at the time.
Dad had wanted to see the world. He said he thought the Navy would show him the way. Instead, he got stationed in Harrisburg, PA., then New London. Finally, he got his orders for the South Pacific. Troops were transported by train to the West Coast. He was stationed in San Diego where they housed them at the zoo. He was assigned a ship and headed for the South Pacific.
His experiences in the Pacific were horrendous but he never told us about them until the last few years of his life. Even at that, he was reluctant.
When dad was discharged from the Navy he was diagnosed as, ”shell-shocked,” i.e., PTSD in today’s parlance. Nothing was offered to him for help. And, he refused other benefits that he was entitled to as a disabled veteran.
He became a successful businessman thanks to my mother’s boundless support. But the scars of war never left his psyche. He lived 94 years, the vast majority haunted by what a very innocent, naïve kid witnessed in war.
While we celebrate American veterans of war today, all veteran’s around the world should be specially honored for giving up a part of themselves in the prime of their lives for politicians of every nation who know little or nothing about actually fighting in one of their armed services for principles, land, and/or absolutely nothing justifiable.