CORNER: Grateful for their service

 

During World War II, my daddy served in the US Navy and was stationed on an island in the Pacific Ocean. My father-in-law also served in the US Navy and was stationed on a ship in the Pacific.

I never talked much with my daddy about his service. I know he was not in combat. He was a storekeeper on the island. I don’t recall any conversations with my father-in-law about his service in the war.

I sure wish I’d had the curiosity and maturity to take the time to find out more about what they both did and didn’t do in service for their country. It’s too late now.

Tom Brokaw coined the term The Greatest Generation to describe the men and women who fought and died in World War II.

The United States entered the war when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941 — two years after the “official” start of the war when Germany invaded Poland. Japan had been fighting with China since 1937.

By the time the war ended in 1945, between 50 and 85 million people were dead, most of them civilians in the Soviet Union and China, and including six million jews who were murdered in Germany.

What must have been going through the minds of Bill Franklin and Buck Roberts and millions of other Americans when they decided to step up, to fight and possibly die for their country?

My daddy enlisted in the Navy on Sept. 24, 1942. My parents got married in March, 1943, while he was home on leave. They lived in Jacksonville while he was training and my mother came home to Anderson when he shipped to the Pacific.

Buck entered the Navy on Nov. 22, 1944. He was a fireman first class on the USNTC Bainbridge, the NTS Newport and the USS Union. He received the American Area Campaign Medal, the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal and the Victory Medal. Not surprisingly, he boxed some.

He was honorably discharged on July 14, 1946.

My daddy was promoted to first class petty officer while serving in an aviation supply depot in the South Pacific. In a letter recommending the promotion, the officer in charge of the depot praised his “knowledge of the work to be done, his ability to direct and instruct his men and his excellent good judgment and tact in the performance of any duty assigned to him.”

He was honorably discharged from the Navy on Oct. 6, 1945. He spent the next 55 years concerning himself with things of an eternal nature. But he kept the recommendation from the officer in charge of a supply depot on an island in the Pacific Ocean during a war that was supposed to end all wars. It was important to him.

Not long after he returned home and entered Furman, thanks to the GI Bill, my brother was born. How many times in the next five years must he and my mother have said, “Surely we can do better than that.” I came along in 1951.

The folks at The Chronicle are working on this year’s Salute to Veterans, something the paper has done annually for the last 15-20 years. When I was part of the Chronicle staff, the veteran interviews and stories were my absolute favorite things I did. 

We can’t recognize and honor our veterans enough. Men and women. From the first days of our country until today. They are the heroes. 

I just wish I had told my daddy and my father-in-law how grateful I am for what they did.

 

(Larry Franklin is retired and lives in Clinton.)

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