Wednesday, May 24, 2006

The measure of a man

Five days left of school and my DS-11 is busy putting together a report on World War II.
He chose to do the report on Okinawa, because his grandfather, (my father) served in this island front just before the end of the war. In fact, he was on a ship headed for Japan when the atomic bombs were dropped, bringing the war to an end.
My son is one of the few people his age who’s grandfather, (not great-grandfather) was a World War II vet. My father died 10 months, to the day, before my son was born.
Actually, L has grandfathers on both sides who served in the war. My father-in-law was in the European theater. He celebrated his 18th birthday on the way to the Battle of the Bulge.
As part of L’s report, he wanted to make a mold of the Purple Heart my father was awarded during the war. The mold didn’t work, so I took a photograph.
I’ve wanted to do something with this medal since my father placed it in my hot little hands.
I remember the moment so clearly.
It started by my half-listening to the sit-com “Major Dad” with a story line about Major Dad and his father’s Purple Heart. I don’t really remember what happened in the story, but I do remember thinking I wanted to inherit my father’s medal.
So in a phone conversation I told him that I was in no hurry to see him die, but I would love to inherit his Purple Heart.
The next time I came home for a visit, when Mom had gone grocery shopping, he pulled me aside and handed me the medal. We were in the doorway of the garage, and he was on the step below me. I gave him a giant hug. I knew even then that it would be one of the most precious mementos in my possession.
Every time I see the Purple Heart I remember that moment, and wish I could hug him again.
The Purple Heart represents so much of who my father was ~ a simple, fatherless Idaho farm boy raised in the depression. He served in the military, like countless others with, before and after him because it was the right thing to do.
It changed his life.
The Purple Heart is given to warriors who spill blood in the field of battle. But he never told me how he was injured. He never said much about the war.
After serving and seeing unspeakable horrors, he came home, went to college in Logan, Utah on the G.I. Bill, met and married my mother and raised five children. He went back to farm, well actually the ranch, working for his father-in-law Idaho. It was not the town of his birth, but close enough.
It is hard for me to think of my Father without feeling waves of sorrow at his loss, and gratitude for the life of one fatherless Idaho farm boy who through his devotion, unconditional love and service changed the world in ways he could not possibly have imagined.
When I started this blog, I did not intend for it to be a Memorial Day moment. I just wanted to comment on how I need to make a shadow box to display my Father’s Purple Heart.
Maybe that is why I haven’t worked on a project to display the medal. I can’t imagine how I can put all I feel about the man in a little shadow box with a few photos and a Purple Heart.
He is so much more than the war he served. But the fact that he served, tucked his medal in a drawer and went on with his life fixing fences, dressing up like summer Santa Claus with his long legs poking out of red shorts, serving on the town council and loving his children is the measure of the man.
He was a man. Nothing more, and certainly nothing less.


Adrienne said...

What a fantastic entry today! TFS!!!!

Susan said...

Your entry today really moved me Alleen. You're so lucky to have such wonderful memories and feelings of your father.

Karen said...

I love and miss grandpa too. One of the things I'm so glad about is that I was able to tell him I was going on a mission. I think he was proud.

JoE said...

Thank you for sharing.

Maybe what you need to do, rather than just one shadowbox for his medal, is to create a Father's Day tribute book for yourself. Chronicle all of the memories that you have of him in one large package. It will probably be something very difficult to do, but rewarding nonetheless.

Wyo bro said...

Dad got two Purple Hearts you remember. One was received after the troop ship he was on was hit by a suiside submarine. The other one was received because of some injury to his thumb. I'm not sure how it was injured. I have a hard time keeping down the tears when you write about dad.

Wyo sis said...

I am crying now and will probably keep on crying for awhile. Dad is and was everything you say and you daid it very well. It is so amazing to me that the generation of such great selfless people raised the selfish and self-indulgent hippy generation they did. And the generations have continued to go downhill from then. I see a renewal of the principled and honorable generation in the current children, teens and young adults, but not all of them. Maybe 50%. They have a life of sacrifice and service ahead of them as well. I believe they will meet the challenge.

b said...

Thanks so much for the entry. I too admire and miss Dad. Life has been so much lonlier since he left us. I too have seen very encouraging signs in todays teens. I work with and for todays College kids. For the most part, they are amazing and wonderful. The future is in good hands. Please send me a copy of this blog,
i have yet to get it to copy off for me. Idaho farm boys are fantastic, even todays are.

Big Sis said...

The above entry is from Big Sis!

kSTEVENSfam said...

Ah grandpa what a great guy!! He told me he hurt his thumb when he stuck it out of his tank to check which way the wind was blowing and it got shot with a BB. I believed him for a long time. I think I was 6 or 7 when he told me. He also told me when we were watching a Tale of Two Cities on the TV one night that I didn't have to cry they would sew the guys head back on, but to another body. We got an "OH ALF" from the kitchen right after!

Gwyn said...

Alleen, look at your last paragraph. I think you have the makings for more of a shadowbox right there.

This is such a wonderful and personal Memorial Day piece. Thank you.

Sophia said...

Alleen, What a beautiful entry. I had to read it to Doug. He's enjoying the Memorial Day entries as much as I am. Your father sounds like he was a wonderful man - and he's from Idaho, which makes him even better, according to Doug. Thank you for sharing such beautiful memories. And thank you for showing us the close up of the Purple Heart. I've never really seen one. Big hugs today!