5/21/08

A Navy Brat

I live in a Navy town, and I love Memorial Day. The traditions of this holiday are varied. Some Americans visit memorials or cemeteries, and most hang flags on the front of their homes. The celebration has become more, of course. Many Americans head for beach picnics, special family gatherings, or sporting events like the Indy 500.

I'm a "Navy Brat." My father and father-in-law were both Navy men, and I think of them both on Memorial Day. I love to hear about Dad Wilson’s annual ship reunions. It’s something I wish my own dad could do, but he passed away several years ago.

My dad— Chief Harry M. Webb, Jr.—loved the military and felt most comfortable, I believe, while aboard ship. He told me very little about his exploits in the service. I believe he sanitized his career for my sister and me, telling us only about the ever-present dolphins who accompanied the ships, the exciting seaports he visited around the world, and simple joys he experienced (like the ice cold milk he loved in the galley).

I can’t remember the names of my Dad’s ships—though I know he accompanied the U.S.S. Forestall—but I have many mental images. I remember him waving from the decks as he deployed; and as he returned after many months, I recognized his unique stride from far away as he walked down the pier toward us. I remember how angry he got about sailors who criticized their Commander in Chief, or took their military duties lightly. Dad bristled in the 60s when many Americans failed to appreciate fighting men and women in all branches of the service. I can just imagine his comments, had he lived to see the debates about our military in Iraq.

I could get intellectual and technical about the great significance of Memorial Day, but frankly, I’m a puddle of mush. I’ll always wonder whether Daddy knew how very proud I was of his military service. He is buried in Florida, but I choose to harbor his Navy pride in San Diego, deep in my heart.

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