As I scroll through Facebook, I’m amazed at how many friends, family, and acquaintances have served in all branches of the military, at all levels. A cousin in desert fatigues next to a stop sign that looks to be in Arabic. One of Skip’s oldest friends, who rose to the rank of Colonel (I think) in what appears to be his Army swearing in picture. Stories of gratitude from friends and cousins about their sons who currently serve in the Marines and the Army. And of course, recollections of dads and grandfathers from wars long over.
And yes, my dad served. He signed up in the Army Reserves in the 60s as a means to an end – it was one of many jobs that paid for his college degree. At some point after my parents were engaged, but before the wedding, his unit was called up – so up moved the wedding. A final round of training exercises before shipping out of Fort Lewis, WA meant my parents honeymooned in Seattle before Dad shipped out with the men of the 172nd transportation unit, a lot of jeeps and trucks, and one large, fiberglass crow that was “recruited” (according to the men of the 172nd) from a local surplus store called Yard Birds. Every one of the men from that deployment came back, as did Crow – and while I can’t speak to whether any of the men went on additional tours, Crow shipped out whenever the 172nd shipped out, even managing a trek to Iraq in the early 90s. (The 172nd is an interesting bunch … read more at https://sites.google.com/site/172ndtransportationcompany/)
After their Seattle honeymoon, Dad shipped out to Vietnam and Mom returned to Nebraska – with a stowaway of sorts (me). Mom thought she’d caught a virus in the northwest; only if you consider morning sickness a virus, I guess. I was born three months before my dad returned, and it was a Red Cross volunteer who found him on a convoy with the good news. We have a picture of my dad and three of his buddies, in rain gear, standing next to a truck, holding M16s, and smoking cigars. I’m sure it wasn’t long before they were back on the convoy, delivering whatever needed to be delivered to the troops dispersed throughout the jungles of Vietnam.
While this makes a unique block in our Kramer family quilt, it’s really no different than the stories of countless men and women, scattered around the world, who left spouses, parents and children behind. Missed births and parent teacher conferences. Not being able to fill the role of the tooth fairy or to see your child ride a bike without training wheels for the first time. The only difference today is technology, I suppose – FaceTime and other technologies make it possible for deployed servicemen and women to actually see one another, if not be in the same room. A far cry from the reel-to-reel tapes my parents sent to one another, and the “It’s a girl … OVER!” broadcast over a radio.
So to all of the veterans and their families: thank you. It seems so inadequate and insufficient. But thank you.