Monday, May 29, 2006
Consider This for May 29, 2006-The Greatest Generation
He was part of what is now referred to as the Greatest Generation.
He was born in Iowa in 1909 to a railroad worker from Sweden and an Irish girl from Iowa. He was one of eight children. Seven boys and one girl.
He dropped out of school early to help the family pay for life.
He eventually went to work for Western Union putting in telegraph lines along the railroad tracks.
In 1933 he married a local farm girl from a family that was land rich and money poor. They lived in town and he worked for a local grocery store...
When the war broke out in 1941 he left to go to Kansas to build air bases for the Army. He was a carpenter on those projects.
In 1940 he became the father of a daughter. In 1942 his son was born.
Married with two children he thought that he would never be drafted but he was.
I think about that a lot when I hear about certain politicians who were able to avoid the draft because of the influence of their money or their parents. Where is the justice?
He entered the Navy and completed basic training at the Great Lakes Naval Training Center near Chicago. He was selected to receive training as a Navy Medical Corpsman at the Brooklyn Navy Yard in New York City.
He often talked about having to give “short arm” inspections to military personnel in Times Square. If you don’t know what that means ask your grandfather or someone over the age of 70.
He enjoyed riding the military ambulance on calls in New York City. A far cry from rural Iowa.
He was transferred to Terminal Island near San Francisco for a while. He was also at San Pedro, California.
He had a certain look in his eyes when he talked about riding troop trains across the United States. He always loved trains and was amazed at how many military personnel they could jam on one train traveling from the East Coast to the West Coast.
He marveled at the West and how the train would stop in northern New Mexico to allow everyone to get off for a while.
He still loved trains the day he died. He loved Colorado and came here many times.
Navy medical corpsmen were often assigned to a Marine unit. He was no exception. While in San Diego he was assigned to a Marine Battalion scheduled to move to the South Pacific islands.
Apparently there was a mix-up in his orders and his ship left without him. He began a long journey to catch up to his unit.
He hitched a ride to Pearl Harbor in Hawaii where he was billeted in the Royal Hawaiian for a period of time. He would often talk about how the troops would do their laundry in the room and the windows were full of “skivvies” swinging in the breeze outside the windows.
He had a Navy issued sea bag and listed all of his ports of call as he traveled the South Pacific. I can’t remember all of them but it was like a geography lesson to read the notes on the bag.
At one point he was assigned as the medical officer on a destroyer escort. He always thought that it was such a great honor to be in charge of everyone’s health on board that ship.
He jumped from island to island arriving just after the Japanese had been defeated in that particular battle.
He never saw combat but many of his friends and fellow medics did. Medics were not allowed to carry weapons and were marked by red crosses on their helmets and armbands. Unfortunately bullets and bombs can’t see red crosses. Many Medal of Honor recipients were medics who had gone in to save our soldiers on the battlefield without any protection.
He came back to his family to work as a plumber for several years and finally retired as a school custodian.
I think that of all the things that he ever did, he was the most proud of being a custodian. He knew that what he did had a positive impact on the education of children.
This member of the greatest generation was my father. He died in 1986 in the same home that I lived in growing up.
He was the finest, bravest man I have ever known. And I honor him and all of the other members of his generation on this Memorial Day.