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.