Another Kind of Hero
Everyone knows Superman and Spiderman and even Batman, but very few know or understand Serviceman, particularly when Serviceman becomes a Veteran! Often Veterans are the unsung heroes of wars past and peace won and at great expense.
The greatest generation is a prime example of serving in time of war, doing their job and coming home and raise families, work hard but never speak of their experiences. Veterans live to a ripe old age; are the guys and gals who are the janitors, cooks and grandparents who never think more of themselves than they do of others. They are always ready to lend a helping hand without expecting anything in return. I’m sad to announce that they are often under or unappreciated, particularly by family who don’t ask the right questions or listen to answers given.
My hero has always been in plain sight, not drawing attention but doing whatever it took to make life better for others. My hero hasn’t always been a choirboy either. In his younger days he thought he was invincible, joined the Navy and in his early days joined the boxing team to show off his manliness or to prove a point until he realized that a guy could get hurt really bad.
After military service he sought out the girl of his dreams, courted her in his own special way, then married her and raised a family. In the course of daily life on the farm he suffered an injury that seriously aggravated a service connected injury, requiring hospitalization and surgery to fuse the knee, followed by rehabilitation so he could get back to work.
My hero worked hard long hours, played hard to and almost lost everything he held dear – his family. That realization brought about a change in his life and his family thrived. Times were hard and money was scarce, but he didn’t think of himself as being poor or handicapped. The family was happy with what they had.
As with all families there were trials and sufferings. Just raising kids brings out the best and the worst in each of us. Troubled relationship lead to conflict when left unattended result in strained relationships and division that take hard work and lots of love to overcome. Before long children are grown, married and have children of their own and life goes on.
That happened in my family either I didn’t ask the right questions or didn’t wait to hear the answers. I knew that my dad was a Navy man. Recently I asked him did he serve just after the war. His reply still stings, he said, “No, I served in World War II”. I kind of let it pass and slinked away feeling like I’d let him down for not paying attention all these years, but I just hadn’t listened to his answers.
When I got the call from my brothers that dad had passed away. The shock of that call still hasn’t left me, although to all outward appearances I’m fine. Inside another part of me died with him, same as when mom died 3 years ago.
I decided to make it my mission to honor his military service by highlighting it at his funeral.
Dad talked about his ships and being an Army man it’s the same as being proud of my favorite unit. Dad talked about 3 vessels he’d served on but not in any particular order that I remember. They were the USS Dixie, the LST Gunston Hall and the USS Southerland and he was so proud of having served aboard them. He did talk about sailing the Pacific to Hawaii and beyond, to the Far East, and to Japan and China.
I can relate because I’ve been to Southeast Asia and to Japan during my service and I’ve flown to the Far East many times over the years. What I didn’t really pay attention to were the years and length of dad’s service – 1945 – 1947. I was born in 1949, so it was after WWII and before Korea and I guess I never got the wars two separated in my mind. Another thing dad talked about was Operation Crossroads and Bikini Islands. I was a bit slow absorbing history but what’s so special about an island named after a bikini? Guess they did a lot of swimming or something?
Several years ago I researched Operation Crossroads so I could share it with mom and dad. I went to my files and I found a lot more than I expected. So I have to put things into perspective.
Dad had joined the Navy on 31 October 1945 at Naval Receiving Station San Diego in California. He suffered a knee injury in December 1945 and was admitted to the Naval Hospital and scheduled for surgery on his left knee in January 1946. By July he was aboard the USS Dixie (AD-14) part of the Operation Crossroads Task Force headed toward the Marshall Islands. He later transferred to the LST Gunston Hall (LSD-5) also part of the task force.
July 1, 1946 – July 25, 1946, the US conducted a series of undersea atomic bomb tests (Crossroads Shot Able and Crossroads Shot Baker) and Marshall Islands of the Bikini Atoll. The purpose was to test the effects of nuclear weapons on naval warships. The War Department positioned of ships and military personnel at various distances from the center of the blast. After the tests were conducted they sailed back to San Diego and were sanitized with brooms, mops and water. Some of the vessels were out of commission for a time, and had to be refitted. Naval personnel were transferred to other duties or vessels.
Dad was a Seaman Second Class Carpenter Apprentice and was reassigned to the USS Southerland (DD-743) which sailed to Pearl Harbor, then continuing to Wake Island, Guam and arriving at mainland China and patrolling the coastal waters out of Tsingtao, China in November 1946. The USS Southerland was a destroyer, pictures of the warship sailing across the Pacific searching for Japanese vessels and engaging a Japanese Zero made it a formidable foe to be tangled with.
I used to watch the Steve McQueen movie, “The Sand Pebbles” just to get a feel of what dad must have felt sailing the coast of China during the war.
Dad was discharged on October 26, 1947 after serving almost a full 2 years of wartime duty in combat. His awards included the Asiatic Pacific Campaign Medal, the American Campaign Medal and the World War II Victory Medal.
Later in life you may recall that Grandpa Joe Wilson (Uncle Joe to many), brother to some and dad to us became a minister of the Gospel so that others might know the “Christ in You, the hope of Glory” written about in Colossians 1:27. He spent more than 40 years preaching, teaching, marrying and burying all in need.
Yes my dad was and still is another kind of hero to me. He taught me to work hard and do things right the first time. He truly showed Christ’s love to a lost and fallen world.
I once saw a shirt in the mall that said, “Dad Knows A Lot” then on the back it said, “But Grandpa Knows Everything”. Dad may not have known everything, but he’s with mom and the One who does know everything. – I am the Real Truckmaster!