My Father’s Service


SCAN2631When I first began blogging, I would do like everyone else, to get in on the topic of the day.  If it was a specific holiday, I would do something to honor it.  After awhile, I realized it was entirely superficial.  That’s why you rarely see me writing about specific days.  This is one Veteran’s Day when I’m going to write about it.  The reason I’m doing that is because I lost my father on October 18.  When my sister and I were meeting with the funeral director, he asked for his VA papers.  Because he was in the Merchant Marines during World War II, things like that are hard to find.  Even though the Merchant Marines who served in WWII were finally given vet status, years ago, my father never bothered with  his.  He didn’t want to stop and look for his papers.  As the family historian, and someone who knows where to locate things dating back nearly 200 years, I could find nothing about his service, no record, no nothing.  We never bothered with vet status.  Then, about 2 weeks ago, when I was going through the things in storage, I noticed a plastic bag with two folders of various papers.  They were on his old oak office desk, under some paper dolls, and childhood books my mother had saved for my sister and I.  I realized they were his service records and paperwork.  It had not been there a couple weeks earlier.  My mother had not unpacked them.  Her housekeeper had not put them on the desk.  My sister had not even seen them.  Neither had her children.  It is one of those weirdly spooky things that happens.  They simply were not there until after he had died.  I had never, ever seen them.  It was just a little too strange, even for me.

Everything is in those folders from his enlistment papers, letter of thanks from Harry Truman, his discharge papers and his status, even at the end of the war, as having served in Army transport.  I have his passport, various identification cards, a few of his ribbons,  and his pay records.  I even have the records of the various ships on which he served, as well as letters of recommendation from his commanding officers.  It’s all there.  That too is just plain weird.  My father’s idea of record keeping was to toss it somewhere and hope he could locate it in time for an IRS audit.   Then, he would panic.  I have 2 inches of paperwork, which I now need to have copied.

Before he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease, I was planning to do a book about his war years.  I have a couple dozen of his letters home, as well as photos his various girl-friends would send him.  I also have his stories.  I just didn’t have the records to complete the project.  Now I do, which is rather ironic.  I was going back and forth with and editor, who suggested I mix his WWII story with the war we waged against Alzheimer’s.

I’m going to do just that.

It’s all there, every darn bit of it.