Calls came from both our sons:
The one in Georgia called last night while Dave and I sat watching a patriotic television program broadcast from the Capitol to celebrate Memorial Day, our holiday to honor those who have previously and are currently serving in the United States military.
Our younger son called this afternoon while the clock in Navy housing in Aiea, Hawaii, read 9:30 AM. His wife serves at Tripler Hospital.
Though we won’t gather together today for a family picnic, we all have had some sobering thoughts about the price of freedom. I used the qioet of our porch to reflect.
Dressed in red and white, my favorite Vietnam veteran stood out and watered the garden early this morning. I thought back to 1967. In February of my senior year of college, he left for Phan Rang to work on the F100s flying about in the jungles of Vietnam.
Writing letters each night, I took solace that then President Lyndon Johnson’s new son-in-law, John Robb, served on the same base. Surely the President of the United States would see that the newest member of his family would not be in harm’s way.
Just as Dave’s tour ended, the TET offensive began. I had Dave’s departure date from Nam circled on every calendar I owned. He was to land at McCord AFB in Washington and then fly on to Buffalo where I’d meet him. The snowy February morning threatened travel on western New York’s back roads, but I got in my 1960 Impala, affectionately known as The Beast, and pointed it toward the airport.
At one point, while I attempted a left turn, the car continued on past my turn. Opening my door so I could see to back up, I noticed the snow lay right up against the bottom of the car door. The flakes swirled down while winds created whiteout-type conditions. Suddenly I wondered why I was doing such a crazy thing. My parents would have a fit if they knew I was out in this weather.
But a soldier, my fiance, was due in — at least he had written that in a letter I had received two days ago. Cautiously, prayerfully, I drove on.
My reward came when the last passenger deplaned. Dave had come home safely. In many ways, he and others who returned from that war came home to anti-war sentiments. Even after the construction of the Vietnam Wall in DC, he didn’t venture down until 1991 to see this monument.
By 2010, our son and daughter-in-law were living in Hawaii while Stacey serves in the Navy as a surgeon on loan to the Army’s Tripler Hospital. With our granddaughter Kelsey’s birth in Honolulu last August, we went to Hawaii to meet her.
On that trip we toured Scoffield Barracks and looked at the memorabilia there for the Vietnam years.
I thanked the Lord for my husband and three cousins who all served in Nam — and who all came home safely.
Back in November 1967, Dave’s folks lived in Pearl City, Hawaii during a seven-year missionary/pastor Christian radio announcer stint for Dad Wolfe. Dave and I met at his parents’ apartment for Dave’s seven-day R&R, and while there, Dave proposed to me. At the end of the week, he returned to Nam while I flew home to finish my senior year of college.
No, we did not visit Pearl Harbor then.
But when we went back to Hawaii in 2004, we took that sobering boat ride out to the USS Arizona, watched the oil and bubbles that continue to surface and remembered the men who died there that cold December morning. My father served in WWII as part of the greatest generation.
Sometime in 2011, we plan to revisit the Arizona, remembering that 60 years later, on September 11, 2001, Americans would again die on our soil.
It’s been a good Memorial Day weekend, probably because I spent some time reflecting about war and the unimaginable costs of the freedoms which I can take for granted.
Dave and I ended Monday night by watching Pearl Harbor. While some film critics complained about the love story that took took much of the movie’s time, I thought back to my Mom and Dad and their love story woven among the threads of WW II and the story Dave and I began in our courtship in the late 60s. People and the relationships they forge are always the canvas that war alters.