Friday, May 3, 2013

More War Stories From Dad



Last night we took dinner over to Dad. After the dishes had been put away, we sat down in the den with him to visit for awhile. Out of nowhere he started talking about his time in the Navy during WWII. For the first time, he told the story of how he came home. It was fascinating stuff and illustrates just how small our world has become.

Dad had been sent with four others from the New Hebrides Islands to another base a thousand miles away for purposes that were unclear. When the job was done, he and his mates hitched a ride on a merchant marine tanker for the thousand mile trip back to the New Hebrides Island base that was his home. The voyage took 5 days, and by the time he finally made it back, he was informed that he had missed the troop ship that was supposed to take him back to the states, and another one wouldn’t be available for three weeks! The duty officer gave him a jeep to drive and told him that he would be duty free until his ship arrived. Two and a half years since leaving home, 8,000 miles from family, 110 degrees in the shade, and nothing to do for three weeks!

Finally, his ship arrived and he made the voyage from the South Pacific to San Francisco. Once there, he boarded a troop train that meandered across the country to Little Creek, Virginia near Newport News. There he was debriefed, and checked for diseases, then discharged. He boarded a bus that delivered him to Farmville, then a taxi that drove him the last 17 miles to the home he hadn’t seen in 2 and a half years. The first person to see him was my Grandmother, who burst into tears at the sight of her boy and said, “God has brought you back to me!” Then my Aunt Emma, who had become a beautiful 13 year old teenager while Dad was away, ran up to hug him. Quite a scene.

I cannot imagine as a parent, sending my child off half way around the world into harm’s way for 2 and a half years, knowing that I would never see them or hear their voice the entire time they were away. When Kaitlin spent 12 weeks in China a couple of years ago, we would have skype dates where we could look at her and catch up as if she was in the room. Despite those virtual visits, it was nerve-wracking to be so far from my only daughter. I can’t imagine how much worse the sense of isolation and helplessness would be if she had been at war and I had no communication with her. The technological advancements we take for granted have indeed made our world a much smaller, less foreboding place. My Grandmother wouldn’t recognize this world. It makes me wonder what’s in store for my unborn grandchildren.