Thursday, November 11, 2010

Happy Veterans Day, Padre!

Happy Veteran's Day, Padre!" I exclaimed over the telephone one VDay from the island of Oahu. Along with telling him thanks, I gave him a brief description of my feelings being on the sacred waters of Pearl Harbor, the beautiful view from the memorial cemetary: PunchBowl and my blissful days tanning on the beach under a warm sun.

(30-foot female figure known as "Columbia" standing on the symbolized prow of a US Navy carrier with a laurel branch in her left hand and the inscription by President Lincoln "…The Solemn Pride that must be yours to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of freedom".

Lady Columbia symbolizes all grieving mothers and looks out on the cemetery that fills the 116-acre Punchbowl Crater. Anciently known as "hill of sacrifice";
It was erected to honor sacrifices and achievement of American Armed Forces in the Pacific during WWII, Korea, and Vietnam.)

"Yeah, I stopped off there on my way to Vietnam." he said thoughtfully and

proudly quipped.

"It wasn't supposed to be that long of a layover on the island, but the stormy weather kept us there from 4 am to noon." he explained.

A cab driver knowing that they didn't have much time, so for $5.00 bucks a piece (25 total) he would haul all of them around the island. They drove by "Walka Kee Beach" (how Padre Pronounced Waikiki)

"But it was overcast around 5 am so there wasn't a whole lot of reason to get out and mess around." he told me.

The driver pulled over on the side of the road and pulled out some bread and papaya jam from his trunk to make them all a sandwich for lunch.

Before Padre's plane had to leave, the driver got him and his army buddies up to Punchbowl, too.

"Now coming home was different", he said. "They had to keep us in a roped off section since we'd been to 'Nam."

Who knows what they were carrying but I do know that Padre won't let his feet touch the floor with out his flip flops after a shower and is keen on Clorox. But I thought about that beautiful island calling out to them and not being able to go and enjoy it. Sad.

(Padre right)

I think he'd love to rope us kids off from certain areas of the house due to his experience and gratitude for things like a good, scalding hot shower, a cold Coca-Cola and other amenities.

"Wow, that is too bad." I said to Padre as I looked out the window of Jen's aunt's house. Vaguely thinking about my day a local beach, body surfing. Scratching at the sand stuck to my scalp and wondering if I would ever get it out of my thick sun bleached hair and other crevices, I thought about him enduring bed bugs, and other sand bugs prone to the rice patty delta he had to turn into an airport serving in the 9th Infantry.

I looked out at the sunsets differently after that call. Punchbowl and Pearl Harbor had a huge influence on me, but after reading through all the letters from that young boy sent home from Vietnam- it put the military, freedom and being a mom into a whole new perspective.

This morning I woke J with the same Aloha Spirit jingle I gave Padre many years ago:

"Happy Veterans Day!"

I gave the definition of a "Veteran"

A veteran (from Latin vetus, meaning "old") is a person who is experienced in a particular area, and is particularly used in Russia and the United States to refer to people with experience in the armed forces or law enforcement.

to J as he moaned beneath the warm cocoon of blankets. I told him that Padre and Great Padre were Vets and we should thank them today.

He was reminded of his civic duties and said: "Mom! we have to help the homeless!

Today I need to bring in two cans of Cranberry sauce for their Thanksgiving dinner!"

While I went through the food storage he dressed. Miraculously, I found a can of the sauce on the shelf, presented it proudly, and took in the look of discontent on the 2nd graders face. We need TWO cans. " He said flatly.

"Yes, but I can only find one. One is better than none!" I said cheerfully.

"And it needs to be STORE bought!" he said pushing the panic button for the morning.

I held the store bought can in hand and explained it was, in fact, store bought.

"oh." he replied calmyly.

Vet side note for pictures sited:

(Dorothea Lange's "MIgrant Mother: Pictures taken in 1936 of Florence Owens Thompson and her children in CA.She had 7 children.

In 1960, Lange gave this account of the experience:

I saw and approached the hungry and desperate mother, as if drawn by a magnet. I do not remember how I explained my presence or my camera to her, but I do remember she asked me no questions. I made five exposures, working closer and closer from the same direction. I did not ask her name or her history. She told me her age, that she was thirty-two. She said that they had been living on frozen vegetables from the surrounding fields, and birds that the children killed. She had just sold the tires from her car to buy food. There she sat in that lean- to tent with her children huddled around her, and seemed to know that my pictures might help her, and so she helped me. There was a sort of equality about it. (From: Popular Photography, Feb. 1960).

After retrieving the dried inner liners of J's boots and a silly band in the shape of a pine-apple from the dryer I walked upstairs.

Sitting up to the table he firmly announced he would not take the can of cranberry sauce until he had TWO, that he would refuse to care for the Veterans today if I failed to care for the homeless!

I held back the comment that he'd be homeless if he didn't knock it off as I stuffed his boot liners into his Sorels on the landing.

Satisfied that Thanksgiving was not until later this month and that I would go get another can of cranberry sauce, J softened and we bundled him in his puffy winter coat, helped him put ONE strap of his backpack on, and like stuffing dried bread cubes into a Turkey, stuffed his hands into his black gloves.

Happily, I wished him a great day: "Be Good, Do Good!" and watched him hoof up the sidewalk in his boots.

Okay, actually, the last part is a memory from the other day. Today, I actually got to leave when he while he was sprinking sugar over his Frosted Corn Flakes. I had an appt. I peered down at his writing assignment for the morning, gave him explicite instructions to ask the bus driver about his other gloves, and kissed him adios.

After bidding my mom luck with getting him out the door, I braved the cold Idaho weather and an even colder van. Inhaling the cold air blown from the heating vents I thought about today. What I wanted to remember. Would I post? Write in my Journal?
If I posted what would I say?

Driving down the road I drew pictures of sentences in my mind.

'I gotta mention the Red Cross calls every six weeks

to remind Padre that he has an appt to donate blood.' I thought as I crossed the bridge over The Snake River. (When they do call I hold back from telling them a reminder call isn't necessary. He has the date in his palm pilot, which rings a reminder to him a couple days leading up to the date, each day up till the date, and at the time he should leave.

'Do I put that first? or should I talk about being at the parade and J wanting to meet a WW II Vet and what Uncle Brett said?'

Clever ideas breezed through my brain as the heater started to unthaw my feet just in time for me to turn off the vehicle. Some of these clever thoughts made it to the page the rest did not.

After the appt. I did the same warm up car drill and drove back home. Walked inside my folks home while TAlk radio streamed through the telephone speakers. Both hard working parents up to the table, finishing breakfast we exchanged some political thoughts and news of the morning.

Padre put on his camel colored Carhardt and went out into the cold like he has for the last 30 plus years I have known him.

I collected his army uniforms

and placed them in great places for photo ops. Pulled out mom's and his jewelry box drawers that contained all the pins

he'd received for giving blood over the years and started taking shots of the physical kudos the Red Cross has given him since '81 for the 14 gallons of blood he's given on a regular basis.

Grabbing the americana boxes I pulled out a few of his letters written home from Vietnam

(Padre next to the one of the Trucks he drove. Padre far left.)

and placed them next to some of my favorite pictures of him.

While downloading the great post photos on the computer mom who was on the computer using Quicken said:

"He looks like a little boy,"

(* He must of taken this for a girl. What a skinny show off he was! But handsome, I must admit.)
as the pictures from the Nikon transfer started popping up on the monitor.

"Think I ought to put up the flag today?" I asked eying the weather; seeing flurries of snow, but that's nothin'.

So pretty quick I was outside wrestling the rope on the flag pole, realized the flag was upside down and after fixing my mistake, pulled the Stars and Stripes up the pole with the cold rope and ran inside. Glad I didn't have to stay another minute outside.

Sat down and started to try and write something meaningful. Something worthy of those who did and do stay out in the cold, or too hot. Go without sleep. Those who wore, wear and were worn out in uniform. And what of those who still do?

Pondering the radio talk host question the Veteran Affairs Commisioner about Post Tramatic Stress Disorder and how the stats are that more men have died since coming HOME from IRAQ than died in IRAQ and why was that?

He talked about high risk living, motorcycle accidents, and the sad scenario of suicide among these military members. Those who try to "squeeze in" every ounce of fun, partying, and life before hitting it again Monday morning."

ugh. sad. They went on to talk about how the help is better for Vets and one of the Q's first asked someone on the show was about homeless, how the numbers are going down.

My mind wandered back to the 2nd grader and his plight for the homeless this morning, parent's plight to keep their kids from being homeless and America.....

I am grateful. Thanks Padre and Pops - all of them.

for serving our country.

Thanks to those who have served and are serving so I can do what I do! So my son can wake up, even before the alarm, and read Diary of a Wimpy Kid with me on the couch.

Thanks, Brenda, for raising a fine young and having to sacrifice that young boy- I love that me and J got to see him come home on the plane that day. It is impressed upon my mind. Vince started a friendship, greater love of country, writing, and freedom for this gal. Prayers for you today.

Thanks to all mothers. To all that have mothers! Thank you, Florence, for being humble enough to let another capture you in your poverty and to the talented photographer who just passed- brillaint woman, you put into words what speech could not through your pictures! (yes, these folks are dead, but maybe they read blogs in heaven!)

Finally, thanks Madre for marrying Padre and having us kids and to Vet/photographer/ Padre; all those nice cars you saved up for, bought, sold and replaced with 7 kids, thanks!

Maybe they are waiting for you on the other side????

Glad to be the daughter of a Vet and yours.

: ) Love, Ka-manda

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