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Thinking of My Dad on Memorial Day

29 May

A rose and a Snapple for my Dad. 2016.

My  Dad was the recipient of two Purple Hearts and a Bronze Star. During the Korean War, he was a forward observer, which meant he had the job of going in front of the front lines, laying the radio cable with which they communicated, and observed what the enemy was doing.   Sometimes he disappeared for a while, with no communications home to my Mom or to his Mother.

Before he left f or Korea, my Dad got engaged to my Mom, married he on his last leave, June 17, 1951, and spent time in California training. At first, I think because of his advanced age, he was almost 23, he taught map reading to new recruits. Dad loved to read maps. Honestly, I think GPS systems would have driven him crazy, as paper maps have almost vanished. For Dad a map was important.

His time as a instructor was limited. One day during exercises, an officer insulted my Dad, making anti-Semitic comments and making fun of the mezuzah he wore around his neck.   Dad was not a tall man, but he was a big man. He tackled the officer and broke his jaw.

Not a good thing to do at all. But Dad was from the Bronx. He learned at a young to defend himself. And perhaps going to an all boy high school, DeWitt Clinton, in NYC, made his sure of himself.  And he was not stupid.  He knew exactly what he was doing. But NO one was  going to make fun of him for being a Jew. (Okay, I will admit he dropped out of college, CCNY,  his biggest mistake,  he ended up in Korea instead of in a classroom.)

He was lucky, his commanding officer, a Captain, saw the incident. He and several others hustled Dad back to camp.   As far as anyone was concerned, Dad was not there when the Lieutenant had his jaw broken.   But Dad was demoted a grade and sent to Korea. He always said that the USA paid for his first cruise…to Japan and then to Korea.

Dad’s first Purple Heart came when they were going up a hill. His group was being bombarded.   The noise was horrendous. Years later when Dad saw “Saving Private Ryan,” he discussed that noise. The movie brought back his memories, as he was part of the amphibious landing in Lochi.  My Mom said he cried during the opening sequences. 

He told us, They got everything right, even the sounds of the bullets hitting the sand, but they could not get the horrendous smell.”

Dad was injured on the hill. Shrapnel entered his legs. He was bleeding. His friends cried out, “Rosie! Get Down! You are wounded! Medic Medic!. “ He said he did not even feel the pain in the rush to get up the hill.   It was Dad’s first visit to a MASH unit.   Needless to say, Dad loved the television comedy M.A.S.H. The MASH doctors fixed Dad up and he went back to war.   Years later the shrapnel began to exit his legs, causing him much pain.

Besides being a forward observer, Dad was a radio man. He laid wires and fixed faulty wiring. He received a citation for bravery for fixing wiring at the base during a bombardment. He was up on a pole fixing it, while bombs fell around him.

His Bronze Star was a unit award. Quotes from my sister: “His unit got in during the Inchon incursion when the South Korean army units on the flanks bugged out and left his division holding the line against North Korean army until relief units arrived.”

My brother disagrees. He says yes it was a unit award, but was not for Inchon. They were actually in the mountains and were abandoned by the South Koreans. The unit got the Bronze  Star for this mission, for fighting their way back to their encampment and surviving. 

His second Purple Heart got him the trip home. This time by plane to Hawaii and the big pink military hospital on the hill.   (I waved to it when I went to Hawaii 17 years ago.   Dad asked me to do that for him.) Then to California and one to Massachusetts, where Mom was able to meet up with him.

She always said that Dad was not the same person when he came home. She would say that he was not a human being. That it took a full year for the real Donald to come back.

Dad was the kindest, gentlest man. He loved people. He loved his family. But his time in the army changed him.   Certain noises would impact him.   Military movies made him cry.   He went to pay respects at the Korean War Memorial in Washington, DC, as well as the one here in Kansas. At both he cried for those who did not come home.

2017 Remembering my Dad and Mom. Two roses.


On Memorial Day, I always think of my Dad, and all the others who served our country.  I go to the Korean War Memorial near my home and put roses on the stone I put in for my Dad.   Roses for Rosie….and I drink a diet peach Snapple, his  and my favorite drink.

 

 

Another Blog about my Dad:  https://wordpress.com/posts/zicharonot.wordpress.com?s=My+Dad+was+a+Proud+Veteran

https://zicharonot.wordpress.com/2015/11/10/museums-help-me-honor-our-relatives-who-served-on-veterans-day/

 

Museums Help Me Honor Our Relatives Who Served on Veterans’ Day

10 Nov

On November 11, every year I go over to the Korean War Memorial that was established just about a mile from my home. Years ago I put a stone in the memorial for my Dad who served in Korea as a forward observer.

A portion of the Korean War Memorial in Kansas.

A portion of the Korean War Memorial in Kansas.

The truth is my Dad loved military history. He loved reading about the Civil War, World War 1 and World War 2. I have visited many museums just to see them and to think about my Dad. In Kansas City we are fortunate to have the National World War One Museum and Liberty Memorial. It was remodeled over five years ago. My husband and I went to check it out to see if my Dad would be able to navigate its halls and exhibits. We thought he would love it. Unfortunately my Dad passed away before we could take him there.

We are also fortunate to have two presidential libraries nearby that also speak about our country’s efforts in war. We have been to the President Truman Library in Independence, Missouri, and the Eisenhower Library in Salina, Kansas.  Both have significant information about the Second World War and dedicate a portion of the libraries to the presidents involvement and service.

About 14 years ago I went to the National World War Two Museum in New Orleans. I took my children with me; they were then 15 and 11. We walked through the entire exhibit. That day there was a special ceremony in the lobby as veterans were being presented awards. The entire time we were there, we spoke about how much Grandpa would love this museum! I bought my Dad a book and some other memorabilia from the museum. I know he wanted to see it one day.

We also visited a small Civil War museum in New Orleans, called the Confederate Memorial Hall Museum. It has been a part of New Orleans since 1891. This small museum supposedly houses the second largest collection of Civil War items. Dad would have loved it as well.

I have been to Hawaii and visited the USS Arizona Memorial and seen the droplets of oil floating to the surface of Pearl Harbor, like droplets of tears still escaping. I have walked through the USS Missouri and saw the spot where the treaty that ended the Pacific War was signed.

I have visited military cemeteries: Arlington National Cemetery, The National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, and the Ft. Leavenworth National Cemetery. I have seen my father buried with full military honors including a flag-draped coffin, the folding and presentation of the flag and a serviceman on the bugle playing Taps.

The Museum of the Pacific War in Fredericksburg, Texas.

The Museum of the Pacific War in Fredericksburg, Texas.

This weekend in my continued efforts to honor veterans and their service, I spent a day in Fredericksburg, Texas. I was in San Antonio for a meeting with my husband. A good friend picked me up from the hotel for this field trip to the National Museum of the Pacific War. Who knew it even existed! We wandered through the halls and learned about what was happening in China and Japan that led to their entrance into the war. We saw planes and submarines.   A replica of the atomic bomb hangs from one of the ceilings.

I saw information about Manila and the infamous Bataan Death March. That stands out in my memory as my husband’s Aunt Grace was one of the nurses in Bataan. She was one of the few who were evacuated from the island on a submarine and so did not have to suffer through the march and the horrible internment. I was able to show my friend the book, We Band of Angels, which features two pictures of Aunt Grace in group photos.

The walkway memorial to presidents.

The walkway memorial to presidents.

We then walked through a memorial to our country’s presidents to the Nimitz Hotel founded by the family of Admiral Chester Nimitz. It is now a museum honoring his memory and his work as the Admiral of the Pacific Fleet. I believe I honored those who serve by visiting these museums.

And always on Veterans’ Day I think of my Dad, who served in Korea. My Uncles Bernie and Stanley who served in World War Two; My husband’s Uncles Ben and Fred who were military physicians in World War Two; His Uncle Richard who served in Korea; and his Aunt Grace and Aunt Florence who were nurses in World War Two. My husband’s grandfather served in World War 1. And not to leave anyone out, I also think of my husband’s and my cousins who served in all of these wars including Vietnam.

Museums do not tell the full story. They cannot transmit the heartache that follows a person throughout their life because of the things they saw, the odors they smelt, the lives that were lost and the changes it caused in their psyche. But for me to visit these museums, I feel I am showing respect for the sacrifices these veterans made for all of us. I am proud there are so many veterans in our family!

My Dad was A Proud Veteran

26 Nov

My Dad was a proud veteran.  He instilled a love of country and duty in my children. And my children loved him.   I know that my son adored my Dad.  But I guess until this past Veteran’s Day I did not realize how great that love was and remains.

My Dad died in 2011, ten days after my son’s 21st birthday.  On his birthday, Dad called.  I did not hear the phone call. But my son called me immediately after to tell me that Grandpa called to wish him a happy birthday and to say he loved him and would always love him.

My Dad was in the hospital.  Very ill.  When he hung up, he turned to my sister and said,  “No more treatments, no more food, and I am not talking to you anymore.”  Those might not be the exact words.  I wasn’t there. I was in Kansas. Dad was in a hospital in New Jersey.  But both my sister and brother agreed that he stopped talking and eating, and refused all treatment.

Did I tell you my Dad was very stubborn?

But in this case, he was right, because he made his own choice.   And he passed away 10 days later.

It was very difficult.  I had plane reservations for that morning.  But it was too late.  The phone call came at 12:30 am.  My brother calling.  I did not want to answer the phone.   But I had to face the reality…losing my Dad nine months after losing my Mom.   My grief was overwhelming.

I flew home to New Jersey, where my brother met me at the airport.  His words were in a way helpful.  “Dad saved us from making very difficult decisions,” he said.  And he was right.  Because we might have fought with him to do the one thing he never wanted…putting in a feeding tube.

Dad was strong willed.

My father was the recipient of both the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart.  Even though he died on a Saturday, the funeral home was able to contact the military.  At my father’s funeral were two soldiers. At the cemetery they removed the flag covering his casket with great ceremony as they folded it.  While  the commanding soldier delivered the flag to my brother, saying the scripted, but heartfelt, words of the military, the other soldier disappeared.  A few minutes later, I knew why. From a far came the sound of  a soldier playing taps.  I still cry thinking of how proud my Dad was of serving his country.  And how the grateful nation return his respect with the tribute of a bugle.

 

The flag from Dad's funeral.  His favorite Korea Veteran cap.

The flag from Dad’s funeral. His favorite Korea Veteran cap.

We kept the flag in the room where we sat shiva.  It seemed right that it be with us.  As it seemed right that my brother now has the flag.

So what does this have to do with my son?

Well first off, my brother and sister agreed that we would give my son my Dad’s newest tallit as a 21st birthday gift.   My Dad had three tallisim  (prayer shawls).  One from his bar mitzvah, one from his wedding, and then the beautiful one my Mom gave him when he became president of his synagogue.  In Jewish tradition, you bury the tallit with the owner.  But at the funeral home, the director told us, “Keep this one.  Use it for a huppah (wedding canopy)for his grandchildren.  Burying two is enough.“

My son was very quiet when I gave him the tallit. He held it for a while, then stroked the velvet case.  I cried because I could see the emotion in that gesture. Now  he  wears Dad’s tallit when he goes to synagogue.  My sister recently said to me that this Dad’s most personal item….his tallit.  That is true. My Dad was proud to wear his tallit.  Proud to be Jewish. As he was proud to be a veteran.

What does Veteran’s Day and Memorial Day have to do with this story?  So much.  My Dad served as a forward observer/radio man in the Korean War.  As he told my children,  “There were no cell phones then.  Someone had to go in front of the front line to lay the radio wires.  That was me.”

Korean Vet

My Dad explaining the Korean War.

 

So when they built a Korean War Veteran’s Memorial near my home, I helped fund it by buying a inscribed stone in honor of my Dad.   One Thanksgiving, when my parents were visiting,  I took them and my children to the Memorial, where Dad told them all about the war… He started to cry….even after over 55 years, the trauma of Korea still was fresh for him.

After my father died, in October 2011, I started going to the Memorial on Veteran’s Day and Memorial Day, to say hi to my Dad.  I cannot visit his grave, as he is buried in New Jersey. But this year, I could not go on Veteran’s Day.  I was out of town.  It bothered me that I could not make this important visit.

A few days after we got home, I had lunch with my son and his girlfriend.  I asked if I could take their photo to send to my daughter.  They said yes.  But then my son started making funny faces.

“Why are you doing that?”   I asked annoyed.

“I am channeling Grandpa,” he said.  “He would have done worse.  He would have also made bunny ears.”

I smiled.  But what he said next made me cry.

“I went to the Korean War Memorial on Veterans’ Day,” he said.  “I went there because I wanted to pay my respects and honor his memory,” he told me later.

When I told him that I went twice a year.  And I really appreciate his going for me.  He looked at me astonished and said he did not go for me.  “I never knew you went there to do that every year,” he said.  No he went there just to say hi to his grandfather.

There are no words….but love.

My Dad always said that with each child and grandchild your heart does not divide more, it gets bigger.  My Dad had the biggest heart, something he gave to his grandchildren.

So each year on Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day, I will continue to honor my father by visiting the Korean War Veteran’s Memorial. I will think of him and of all the veterans who served with pride.