Friday, July 22, 2011

WW2 Heroes

I ran on the Mall at noon today when it was 97 degrees and the heat index made it feel like 117 degrees because of the humidity. The temperature was in triple digits by the time I finished over an hour later.

I ran from my office near Union Station intending to go to Lincoln and back but I only made it to WWI before I turned back near the half-hour mark. I did a lot of walking on the way back. I lost 4 pounds during the outing.

As I ran, I thought of my Dad who fought at Peleliu in WW2 when the temperatures often rose above 115 degrees. Those Marines were tough. I could (and did) quit anytime I wanted. He couldn't. Of course he was 19 then, not 59.

I also thought of my Uncle who passed in April. He was a Marine in the Pacific too, a shipboard gunnery officer. I will be attending his grave side service in his hometown of Winona Minnesota next week, the last of my father's and mother's generation related to me to pass. They're all gone now.

Every man I knew, practically, when I was growing up was a WW2 veteran. The Dads of all my friends had been over there somewhere.

In this frame of mind, on my way back I stopped at the WW2 Memorial. I wanted to tell my cousin, my Uncle's daughter, next week that I stopped in and saw her father's battles etched in stone upon the memorial. When her Dad died she started reading all of his contemporaneous WW2 handwritten notes and sometimes she asks me for context as she knows I know history. He won a bronze star for heroism.

I was glad to take a break from my sweltering run and walk respectfully through the imposing memorial. I asked the ranger why the Pacific column was on the south side and the Atlantic column was on the north side. He didn't know, saying I was the first person who had asked him that question.

I went to the Pacific column and read the battle names carved into the base of the fronting pool. I traced the Peleliu and the Okinawa inscriptions, the two battles where my father fought, and thought of him. I lost him a quarter century ago today, to lung cancer. During WW2 they included three cigarettes in each K-ration pack.

I traced the Battle of the Philippine Sea and the Japan Carrier Air Strikes inscriptions and thought of my Uncle.

I traced the Manila inscription and thought of my Uncle Bill.

I went over to the Atlantic column. I traced the Sicily inscription and remembered my Uncle Bob.

I traced the Battle of the Bulge carving and thought of my friend's father, a laughing man whom I met once before he passed recently. This veteran told a story with a twinkle in his eye of getting a coveted D-Day pin because he was at sea on June 6, 1944, a raw rookie on a troop transport who happened to be going from America to England on that day. He saw the elephant later that year with Patton's Third Army at the biggest battle in history.

Then I ran/walked back to the office. I mostly walked so did I consider my run to be unsuccessful? Not at all, it was a very satisfying, successful run.

No comments: