Be Thankful you can Thank a Veteran.

 

Judy Ann

The B-29 “Judy Ann” / Photo by Kidzond.

 

 

There is a little debate going on in the United States. Seems that since the advent of Social Media the question of what is respectable and not respectable on Memorial Day has cropped up every last Monday in May.

I would take a guess, that most of us (by now via social media and countless Media outlets) know that Memorial Day honors those soldiers who didn’t return from various battles we have fought over these 241 years. We mark the day with parades and tributes to honor our Fallen Soldiers.

However, it is seen as very improper to Thank a veteran. To the point it is almost seen as offensive by some in The United States.

I disagree. Yes, Veterans Day, November 11th, often called Armistice Day in other parts of the world, is the day we in the United States to thank those who have, and those who still, serve our country.

Yet one important thing to remember about Memorial Day, is that many who did not come back, did so, so that others could come back. For if it wasn’t through their sacrifice, many more would have never returned.

Incident on the North Field

Two things I want you to know about my father. One, he never wore a seatbelt unless absolutely forced to wear one. He always carried a pocket knife. These may seem incompatible, yet both of these traits all came down to one fateful day in 1945.

My father was a mechanic for the B-29’s during WWII. He served on the island of Tinian. This island, along with Saipan and Guam were used as airbases to launch B-29’s in the bombing of the Japanese Empire. Days were long, with periods of hectic activity in the early morning, and hours of waiting for the planes to return from their missions. My father said that when the planes returned near dusk, it would look like a floating city in the sky.

He, like many others, toiled away in a far off land. In hot humid conditions, far from loved ones and familiar faces. Many friendships were made on that island. Memories, both good and bad, were made there too.

He talked of the humorous things, guys that made go-carts to pass the time, and to have a little fun. Of the sad day they installed a curtain for the prisoners shower. Seems there was a young Japanese lady who liked to shower as the men headed to the airstrips every morning. Obviously to draw their attention away from their duties, and a little jab of what they were missing at home.

There was the ugly side too. Like the time he flew to Iwo Jima, sent there to repair a broken down B-29. It was three days after the island was secure, yet the plane they came in on was still shot at by Japanese soldiers, as they landed on the makeshift strip.

He arrived at Iwo Jima only to find a more gruesome sight. Bodies of Japanese soldiers, stacked like cord wood, and being buried by a bulldozer. Soldiers coming up to him with a jar of gold teeth. Humanity takes a backseat during times of great conflict. WWII was no different.

Yet of all these memories, all the things that happened during his tour of duty, one stuck out more than others. A plane crash.

I don’t know the plane, I don’t know the name of my father’s friend. I do know what happened. During take off, the plane lost an engine, the pilot tried to go around, but the plane crashed, upside down. My father, like others, rushed to the aid of their fellow airmen. Even so far as to, like my father, going inside the plane to get the crew out.

It was a mess, electrical wires everywhere, parts of the plane hampering their attempted rescue. All this, while the fuel leaked into the upside down fuselage. As this rescue was going on, my father found a friend, hanging upside down from his seat, stuck in his 5-point harness. My father didn’t have a knife. The seatbelt was stuck and would not release. The electrical wires began to arc and my father was standing in a pool of airplane fuel. He made a choice, and left.

The explosion would send my father airborne, some 20 feet down the runway. Yet…

That decision haunted him for the rest of his life. He would never wear a seat belt, never be found without a pocketknife. 

RLK1945

Ralph L. Kendrick, circa 1945. / photo by Kidzond.

 

My father would make it home from the war. Other’s on that island would not. While Tinian is known for being the island that the Enola Gay launched from on its fateful mission to drop the worlds first Atomic Bomb, it was an active airbase. Thousands of men were there, hundreds never came back.

And like my father, many came back but left something there. A part of them that they would never get back.

During that time, men and women we call The Greatest Generation, put everything they had to defeat the evil that was consuming the world. Many acts of heroism occurred. Even little acts. Like the time my father was saved from a propeller blade by an attentive British Indian Guard. He stopped the rolling ladder my father was on from being sucked into the propeller of an engine. The pilot forgot to check before he started it. It happens.

Not everyone made it home, those that did bear the memories of friends and comrades they lost. A part of them, will always be There. Kindred spirits, lingering among the headstones.

I agree, today is a day of remember our fallen heroes. A day to honor those who gave us our freedom, at the cost of their lives.

So, you should not thank a veteran. Yet, you should be Thankful, very Thankful, you can Thank a soldier, who helped our Veterans come home. They paid the ultimate price to do so.

 

The Big Wheel

The Big Wheel. / photo by Kidzond.

Dedicated to the crew of The Big Wheel. Lost on March 30th, 1945. May they rest in peace.

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Remember to kiss your father.

20160807_180706 (2)By Js Kendrick

 

“I love you daddy.” is a phrase I hear from my 6-year-old son several times a day. This is followed by a hug and a kiss.  At times, he chooses the most inopportune times to do this, say when I’m cooking lunch, trying to do dishes, or writing my blog. Yet I still stop, take a moment, and tell him “I love you too Nick” and give him a hug and kiss back.

For me, the constant affection, which sorry to say, can be annoying sometimes. As in the case of me going to the bathroom with my smartphone (get it?) and hearing a knock on the door because someone wants to tell you they love you, is…well yeah, annoying.

Yet I will crack the door, tell him I am going potty, and that I love him. I do this all because once I forgot to kiss my father.

I must have been around 14, maybe younger, maybe older. I was going somewhere and as I was leaving for the day. I said goodbye to my dad and he held out his arms for a hug, which is usually followed by a kiss on the cheek from both of us. I hugged my father but I didn’t kiss his cheek as was our custom.

“Oh, getting too old to kiss your father huh?” was all he said. In truth I think I was in a rush, so the thought didn’t cross my mind, too wrapped up into where I was going. Yet suddenly, my father’s statement insulted my fledgling manhood. And it stung on several levels.

I thought about it while I was gone. Although mad at the stinging rebuke I thought that I should have kissed my father. What if it wasn’t just a slip of the mind and I purposely didn’t kiss his cheek? I started to regret my anger and felt remorse. I knew from then on, I would kiss my father goodbye.

The irony of the whole incident was that my father never gave it a second thought. He just made an observation, not a rebuke.

Yet I always remembered from then on to kiss my father. I’m an affectionate fellow. I will hug close friends goodbye (provided they are huggers too) and will do the same with family. My older two daughters usually take a kiss on the cheek with a little embarrassment or it might have something to do with my beard, not sure. Yet giving them a hug hello or goodbye is standard for me.

So Nick being affectionate is not a shock to me. And even as obsessed he is of late to tell me he loves me and wants a hug, I make sure I return those affections.

Fathers and Sons are an interesting mixture. Not unlike Mothers and Daughters yet for boys I believe there is an odd dynamic.

My father believed that sons always want to be better than their father, so there was this underlying competition. I’ve never believed that. My father was his own man, he was who he was, shaped by events of his life. My life has not been even close to my fathers experiences. I was never the product of a broken home, nor had an abusive father. I did not get drafted at 18 to be sent off half way around the world to fight in a World War on some godforsaken island in the Pacific Ocean. Nor did I learn mechanics from my time in the service and go to work in a factory in the Fastener Industry, moving up the corporate ladder to become Vice-President of a company. That was not, nor ever will be, my life.

In truth I couldn’t compete with my father’s life, and neither could he compete with mine. We were very different people.

Yet we did share commonalities besides being father and son. Both of us had a love of history, and a love of politics (yes, I will spare you any political opinions I might have). It was the love of history that I think was our deepest bond. My father being a veteran of WWII was extremely proud of the time he served. He would tell me stories and I would do my own research and ask questions. We would even go to reunions and gatherings together. Those are some of my fondest memories of my dad.

My brother once said to me that our father was always hard on me. More so than our father was on him or our older brother. I believe this to be true, yet I never knew why. Over the years I have come to the conclusion, and to hazard a guess, it was because I never felt I was in competition with him. Something he believed strongly in. Yet I know now, and knew then, that my father loved me, and in his own way, always wanted the best for me. I feel that he felt I could always do better, and this was his way of pushing me to push myself.

As in life, there is death. My father succumbed to bone cancer on Tuesday, October 21st, 1997. It was that Friday before, that I hugged and kissed my father for the last time. He would slip into a coma by late Saturday. Never to regain consciousness.

I would stay with him in his hospital room those last few nights, watching him, hoping against hope. A wide range of emotions goes though ones mind when you are on a deathwatch. And sure enough, my thoughts turned to that time I didn’t give him a kiss goodbye. Even though I had apologized for it so many years ago, and he didn’t think much on it, not even remembering the incident. It still gnawed at me all those years later. It may be a silly thing to fixate on, yet for me, to this day, it is my biggest regret in my life.

My son Nick will never know his grandfather except for stories. Stories I will gladly tell him and my three daughters over the years. Yet of all the things I can pass on to my son who in his time, like I have become, will be his own man someday. Is that it is still okay, at whatever age he may be, to kiss your father.