Memorial Day

A secret writer from a pragmatic blue-collar neighborhood, Marie White Small brings her skills as a florist, waitress, antiquarian bookseller, bookbinder, cook, and pie-baker to the page.

lflageToday, amid the parades and family gatherings, I recall the many Memorial Day services I attended, often in churches and at cemeteries where clergy, local veterans, and officers from the VFW and the American Legion Post spoke about hometown heroes lost in past and current wars.

I always think of my father on this day. Although he came back from WWII alive and intact, the trajectory of his life was changed. He was seventeen when he joined the Navy in 1943 as a signalman on the USS LSM 449 assigned to the Pacific Theater. The ship was a Landing Ship Tank built to carry troops and supplies to American and Allied troops.

Dad was a kid when he joined, not unlike many boys across America who scrapped high shutterstock_93709273school to go to war on forged birth certificates. He never had much to say about any of it, other than to tell us his mother wrote to him every day, and then to show us kids the cyst on his back where he claimed a bullet was lodged. We’d ask where it entered and he’d show us his belly button, and of course, we all laughed and asked for the real stories.

LSM 449In the last years of Dad’s life, he died in 2015 after eighty-nine years, my brother brought him to a Veteran’s Day dinner. Dad, then riddled with dementia, regaled all who would listen various stories of bravado about his time in the Navy, claiming he was the skipper of the boat. The other guys at the table knew no better and believed his tall tale; the rest of us smiled and laughed. Underneath the confusion in his mind was something noble.

They real stories seldom came.

LST325-10My father eventually graduated from high school, and in 2000 he was given