My Dad was a “Navy Man”.
Better said, he served in the Navy. On the day of his high school graduation, he came home to find a draft notice waiting for him in the mailbox, and off he went.
He served in the Pacific theater, in places like Guadalcanal, and post-surrender Japan. But that is about all I know. He didn’t talk about it. He never claimed any veterans’ benefits, he never went to the VA hospital, he never wore a Navy hat. He didn’t cheer for Navy – only the Cougars and the Utes. (Depending on who was winning at the time.) He most definitely did not have an anchor tattoo on his shoulder. He did have an awesome Navy pea coat that I wore in college. (Seriously authentic vintage.)
Once in a while I would try and dig a little. He would usually change the subject. One time he did spill with a story about how he and his buddies would goof-off when they were in the city in Japan on shore leave. For yuks, a few of them would stand behind a car stopped at a light, and when the light turned, they would pick up the back end of the car, leaving it spinning its wheels in the air. The frustrated Japanese driver would stop the car, get out, and shoo the laughing sailors away. They would scatter while the driver got back into the car, and then return- just in time to lift it again.
That’s it – my only story of my father’s WWII Navy experience was him playing around with the vanquished locals.
My Dad passed away several years ago. He didn’t leave a written personal history, but my siblings and I were able to pry a lot of information and experiences out of him his last years. Still, when it came time to talk about war, he changed the subject. When asked why, he would say it was “boring”, or “there’s nothing much to tell”.
I don’t know if that is true or not, but I do know that whatever he experienced in WWII, he wanted to leave in the past. The lack of information makes me speculate: Was it so rough that he didn’t want to share it? Was the Navy life something he would rather forget? Did he witness things he would rather leave forgotten?
He was a Veteran, but you would have never known. He was a Navy man. But, ahead of that, he was a husband, a father, a teacher, a church leader, a business man, and so many other things. Veteran was far, far down the list – because that is how he chose to define himself. He served, returned to his life, then went on a mission for 3 years and served the Lord. He talked about that service often, proudly, and fondly.
I miss him.
(Post originally published 11/11/11)