Skinny 17-year-old boy defends country’s freedom

My Dad was very patriotic. He grew up when Americans still saluted the flag and got emotional during the National Anthem.  He, the second of six boys, was a baby during the depression years.  His family lived frugally.  His father was in the Army during WWI, stationed in France.  My Dad and all five of his brothers followed suit and fought for America.

My Dad, with only two weeks of high school left, walked downtown on Flag Day and enlisted in the US Navy.  His older brother was currently in the Army.  WWII was in full swing, and Dad felt ready to go.  Not quite 18, he needed a parent’s signature and his father was there to give it.

Dad didn’t talk about his experiences in the war, but from a little notebook we found amongst his things we learned that he was on the Liberty Ship, the J. C. Osgood.  The convoy he was in had their position given away to the German subs by a Spanish tanker.  Although they were able to sink one sub and damage another, they lost a ship to mines, and the convoy was broken up.  Dad was a Gunners Mate 2nd Class Petty Officer manning the guns on deck, shooting at German Aircraft.  He was part of the Mediterranean and  Middle East Theatre, traveling through the ports of Said, Egypt; Aden, Yemen; Bombay, India, to name a few.  He passed through the Suez Canal, crossed the equator.  We learned he continued to shoot, even as the young sailor next to him was shot and killed. He was then transferred to the SS American Farmer, part of the U.S. Naval Armed Guard.

Dad’s brothers all joined when they were old enough – Jerome, US Army; Francis, US Coast Guard; John, US Army – all during the Korean War. David started out in the Army, too, as a B29 Rear Gunner in the Korean War, but after he was shot down while over North Korea, and crash landed in South Korea, he decided he’d move to the Navy. David was a Constructionman Master Chief, did two tours in Viet Nam, and was very proud of being a member of the Navy SeaBees.  He retired as a Command Master chief.

My brother followed suit and joined the Navy.  Dad didn’t want him to.  He had been in a war and didn’t want his son in one too.  My brother is a plank owner on CVN 71 Theodore Roosevelt, a nuclear Aircraft Carrier, where he was an Avionics Tech 2nd Class Petty Officer.  He was in Desert Storm. I can remember sitting at home, rocking my newborn son, watching war news on TV, hoping I wouldn’t hear about my brother’s ship, hoping he would come home safe, hoping my son would never have to go to war.

America is a different place today.  We question it’s military tactics, it’s principals, it’s ideals.  No matter your beliefs, whether you are a Democrat, Republican, pacifist, draft dodger, whatever, please take the time to thank a veteran. The United States has made mistakes, but that does not negate the appreciation we should show the millions of veterans who, at the call of their country, went forth to do their part.

Dad was just a skinny 17-year-old boy from a small town in upstate New York. He left home to help defend his country’s freedom.  Thank you Dad, thank you veterans everywhere.