A Photo for Memorial Day

A few years ago one of my cousins sent me a collection of photographs he’d found among his late mother’s possessions and scanned into digital files.  Many of them I’d seen before, but this picture of my young parents was a delightful surprise.  If my mother even knew it existed, she didn’t have a copy.  I don’t know when it was taken, if my dad was home on leave or home for good, but it was clearly a homecoming.

Home from WWII

My parents were married in September 1941, only a few weeks before the attack on Pearl Harbor, but they had been friends since they met at the age of eleven.  According to an undated newspaper clipping my cousin sent, my dad left his job in the advertising department of Schuster’s Department Store in Milwaukee the following October for the Naval Reserve Midshipmen’s School at Columbia University in New York City.  He graduated first in his class of 1,270 men (wow!–I didn’t know that until I saw the clipping).

Dad never talked much about his military service.  He certainly had the personality and organizational skills to be a fine officer, but I suspect he wasn’t as fond of the structured environment.  I know he taught communications skills at the Navy school at Columbia for a few months, long enough for my mother to join him in New York.  I know he spent most of his service as a deck officer on the U.S.S. The Sullivans in the Pacific, dodging Kamikaze pilots and typhoons.  He stayed with the ship for a few months after the war at the Mare Island Shipyard near San Francisco; my mother had vivid, and mostly happy, memories of life in a Quonset hut.

My dad had vivid memories of those kamikaze attacks, and once threw himself flat on a cement sidewalk in the suburbs of Miami in reaction to a low-flying mosquito spray plane.  He came back into the house that early morning with the newspaper he’d gone out to collect, a badly scraped face, and a sheepish expression.  That became his favorite War Story.

Mom and Dad have been gone for a good many years now.  They left me a few years apart, Dad in 1982 and Mom in 1989.  I’d like to think their happy reunion was captured by some celestial photographer.