Monday, November 12, 2007

Remembrance

It's a day late , but yesterday was both busy and not one of my better days.

In keeping with the point of the holiday, I reflected on the lives of two men close to my heart - my grandfathers, both of whom served in the U.S. Navy in the Pacific theater during World War II.

My paternal grandfather served on board the USS Pennsylvania, dreadnought flagship of the Pacific Fleet, leaving behind his wife and infant son (my uncle) to pay his dues to his country. He was proud of his service, and I remember growing up that he always kept a model of his ship built by one of my cousins on a shelf in his dining room. At his funeral, one of his brothers, also Navy, saluted him as he lay in state in between a Knights of Columbus honor guard, and the scene broke my heart.

I have his Bluejacket's Manual at home, kept carefully among my other WWII memorabilia. Jim, I'm honored to be your grandson, and I miss you. See you when the time comes, Granddaddy.

My maternal grandfather was a 16-year-old kid from a rough background who decided he'd join up after the attack on Pearl Harbor. He lied about his age to get in, and was assigned to a destroyer, the USS Abner Read, which was sent to the Pacific to fight the Japanese. The Japanese sunk his beloved ship when a kamikaze pilot dropped a bomb down one of her stacks and the plane came down athwartships. My grandfather's closest shipmate credited him with saving his life while they waited for rescue, and that man's family forever held my grandfather in the highest of esteem for this act. My grandfather looked back on those days of service with the greatest of pride, and I believe he felt at home during those years like never before or after, until he found his place in the world again in Colorado.

He was cremated after his death and his ashes were spread in his beloved Colorado. His flag rests upon my mantle next to a wartime photograph in which he's in uniform, grinning ear-to-ear like the schoolboy he was. My own memory of that same grin is most clear when, not too long before his death, he watched my daughters play in my mother's yard. They were running back and forth to him as he sat in a lawn chair, and the occasional tear trickled down his face as he watched them. Ken, I'm honored to be your grandson, and I miss you. See you when the time comes, Pappaw.

Thank you both for your service and the families you started on your return.

Thank you to the men who fought alongside you who did not come home - their sacrifices will not be forgotten, not by me or my children or my grandchildren.

And thank all of you who have served, and especially those who are serving now in some far corner of the world, far from home. God bless you, and take care of yourselves.

4 comments:

Amanda said...

Again, your talent with writing astounds me, and I have been reading your letter, papers, notes, for 17 years now. I wish I knew more about my grandfathers, never got to meet either as you know. You are lucky to have the stories and to have had them both in your life. I love you

SpeakerTweaker said...

Brandon, I just don't have the words. Just know that I share in your memories just the same.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go link up to this, as I couldn't hope to put it better myself.

With tears.

I love you as well, sir.



tweaker

Michael said...

I would love to correspond further with you and others who have family members and/or friends that served aboard the USS Abner Read. My dad (Max Davis) was serving aboard the Read the day she was sunk in the Pacific. I have made contact with several Abner Read shipmates over the years, and would like to work to form an organization of family and freinds of the Abner Read.

Several reunions have been held in the past and it is always possible to maybe plan another, but regardless we need to come together and continue to tell the story of these men's service.

I hope to hear from you soon.

Sincerely,

Michael Davis
Post Office Box 95
Tilden, Nebraska 68781
m49j52@yahoo.com

Michael said...

Brandon:

I hope you will see this and respond. My Dad (Max Davis) also served aboard the USS Abner Read. I am hoping to some day compile stories of people like your grandfather and my dad and those served on the Read. Please respond and lets talk.

There is an organization forming of family and friends of the USS Abner Read.

Michel Davis
Post Office Box #95
Tilden, Nebraska 68781
m49j52@yahoo.com

PS I have been in a contact with a few of the Abner Read shipmates over the last several years, and they are a great group to share and learn from.

I hope to hear from you soon.
Thanks!