My mom and dad met at Anaheim High School, fell in love and got married in ’66.
But, like most stories, theirs has a number of details that could’ve altered their lives — and I’d be remiss to not remember them on a day like today.
They continued dating after high school, he went to college in the area for a year and then enlisted in the Army. He knew he wanted to marry my mom, but also felt the Army was the thing to do. So he did.
He did his basic training at Fort Ord, then went to jump school in North Carolina where, as we all like to say when kidding around, he “learned to jump out of perfectly good airplanes.” We joke now, but he left North Carolina as a paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne Division and ended up getting orders for Vietnam. Definitely not a laughing matter.
He made his way home to California, and he and my mom decided to get married.
They had a brief honeymoon in Palm Springs, then he boarded a boat out of Oakland a few days later; he was on it for a month as it cruised across the Pacific. I remember the first time I was old enough to comprehend their story, and I think I shrieked to my mom, “What?! You got married? You could’ve been a widow!”
True. But I absolutely adore the fact that their love was the driving force in March of ’66 — not necesarily the fear of him possibly not coming home (although I’m sure that was certainly in the mix of emotions).
While Memorial Day is a day for honoring the men and women who have died while serving our country, today I honor and am thankful for my dad who served and is still here with us. I’ve asked him before if he was ever in danger of being killed, and he says that he wasn’t. But accidents happen even during training, and a war is a war is a war, no matter how “safe” one’s role may be. There’s always that chance.
In the past few years, I’ve been fortunate to visit Washington D.C. in July and behold its beautiful Independence Day tributes, see Pearl Harbor and walk on the humbling memorial over the USS Arizona where the smell of oil which still leaks from her hull permeates the air, and behold the beauty of the National Cemetery of the Pacific with its view of Diamond Head. Each place managed to bring me to tears, and on days like today, I realize how very lucky we are as a family. I am aware of the memories that many were never able to make because a loved one was killed during their military service, and how many we are fortunate to have because my dad came home.