The saddest part of my father-in-law’s funeral was when the representatives of the Army folded the flag that had been on his casket and presented it to my mother-in-law. Even though I had been crying through most of the ceremony, I really broke down when they knelt down in front of my mother-in-law, handed her the flag, and started the "On behalf of a grateful nation," speech. My father-in-law served in the Korean War as an Army Staff Sgt. and had even been awarded a Purple Heart for wounds he received during battle. I thought it was very sad that the only time that anyone says "thank you" to a service man/woman is after they are dead. That’s when I started sending cards to my dad and hubby for Veteran’s Day. I thought they would think I had lost my mind, but I really didn’t care. I wanted them to know that I was grateful for their service to our country. Believe it or not, they have always been touched by the cards. Mom has told me that Dad looks forward to getting the card every year. Hubby normally makes fun of me for buying cards for every event, but he’s never once made a smart-aleck remark about his Veteran’s Day card.
I don’t really know much about the time that each of them spent in the service. Just the basics – service dates, where they served – but no real details. . . .
Dad served as a Marine during Korea. He joined the service around his 19th birthday and only served one tour as a Marine. I think they "respectfully requested" that he not re-enlist after his first tour of duty. Like I said, I don’t know a lot of the details but I do know that he went into the service as a buck private and came out of the service four years later as a buck private. His stories are probably not something that he wants his daughters to hear, but I imagine that my little brother might know some of the details. Someday I’m going to ask him if Dad’s ever told him any of his Marine stories. What I do know is this – Dad was sent to Korea and fought at the Chosin Reservoir. He survived the battle, but got a really bad case of frostbite and was sent back to the States. He served the rest of his "hitch" stateside. But you know what they say – Once a Marine, Always a Marine and that applies to my Dad. He has a whole room full of Marine stuff. Hats, statues, plaques, books. You name it, he has it. He even stands and salutes whenever he sees the Marine Corps band playing in a parade. Mom tells a story of when my sisters and I were little, he would play his marching records and have us girls marching through the house behind him. Semper Fi, Dad.
Hubby served in the Navy during Vietnam. Hubby was having a little bit of trouble in high school and thought that joining the service would keep him out of trouble. He dropped out of school between his junior and senior years and joined the Navy. He was stationed on a destroyer that was supposed to go over to Vietnam, but his orders got changed at the last minute and he spent his entire time in the Navy on a tug boat in San Diego harbor. Again, I don’t know a whole lot about Hubby’s time in the Navy except for some stories about trips to Tijuana and raiding the freezers of the battleships they would bring into port for extra rations. I am proud of him for volunteering to join the service during a time when volunteering wasn’t such a popular thing to do. Like my dad, Hubby was "respectfully requested" not to re-enlist. Seems that when Hubby was younger, he had a little bit of trouble with authority figures. Especially Ensigns that got an officer’s commision just because they went to college and the Marines that ran the brig. I’d love to get him to open up and tell some of those stories . . . .
Like I said before, my father-in-law was a Staff Sgt. in the Army during Korea. He was wounded during the same battle as my dad. Although Father got an actual wound. He was diving into a fox hole to get away from the Chinese soldiers that were shooting him and took a bullet in the baby toe of his right foot. Yes, you read that right. The baby toe of his right foot. Father often said that if he was just a few seconds slower, the Chinese would have killed him. And like my dad, the wound to his toe wasn’t enough to get him out of the Army, just enough to get him stationed stateside for the rest of his tour of duty. Father thought about re-enlising, but he when he learned that he could do the same job he was doing in the Army as a private citizen and make more money, he decided not to re-enlist. Like my dad and my hubby, Father never told a lot of stories about his time in Korea or in the Army. Although he would tell stories about liberties in Japan . . .
So here I sit, the proud daughter of a Marine, the proud wife of a Sailor, and the proud daughter-in-law of an Army grunt. And yes, I told them thank you yesterday. (I said a prayer for Father during Mass last night . . . I hope he heard it!)