I wish we didn’t have Veterans Day. Actually, I wish we didn’t have veterans. How could that be accomplished? Not have wars. (duh) But, this isn’t a political blog and, since a war-less world is not likely to happen in my lifetime, those men and women who risked their lives to protect their homeland should certainly be celebrated.
Veterans Day is the anniversary of the signing of the armistice, which ended World War I. According to The New York Times, the last US survivor of this war (which has been described as a “muddy bar fight”) was Frank Buckles. Florence Green, the very last survivor, was from Britain. She died in 2009 at the age of 111.
We had the privilege to meet one of the last survivors of World War II during our last visit to Hawaii. Our grandson was born on Oahu while his dad served his country in…well, I can’t tell you where he was, but it was thousands of miles away (Marines). With modern technology, however, he was in the delivery room with them via Skype. We were patiently (yeah, right) waiting in the waiting room. I was pacing in on behalf of the new dad. One of the sweetest moments (of which I have a picture) is Hubby picking up his grandson for the first time while new Daddy watched via Skype as his own Dad held his son. Not a dry eye in the room…but I digress.
When Grandson #1 was about 9 months old, Hubby and I, and hubby’s two siblings and their spouses took their mom to Hawaii to see her only great-grandchild before their mom died. She had stomach cancer and was going downhill fast. As a nurse, she knew the prognosis. We talked to her doctors who supported the trip, knowing we were going to make it all about her. It didn’t hurt that Hubby (her oldest) is a physician. We rented a house that looked out over the bay and was only about 10 minutes away from the home of our grandson and his parents. She smiled so much her mouth must have hurt. That was August/September; she died in December.
We decided before we left for Hawaii we’d do no more than one activity a day. We’d all been before so none of us needed to sightsee. If she felt up to it, we’d all go. If not, someone would stay with her, maybe all of us. We arranged a couple of outcall massages for her, and we ate almost all of our meals at the rental house. We went to a luau, the pineapple plantation, downtown to the marketplace, punchbowl cemetery, took a helicopter ride…I don’t remember what else except Pearl Harbor. That was on everyone’s bucket list. We’d arranged it to go on a Wednesday because the tour books said that was when WWII vets came out to greet visitors.
There were eight of us plus a baby trekking everywhere we went. This was no different. The first person who greeted our group at Pearl Harbor was a 94 y.o. wheelchair-bound veteran. He introduced himself as Herb Weatherwax. Our group stopped moving, stopped talking, maybe even stopped breathing. We stood and stared at him. Finally, Hubby’s mom, a real southern lady, walked up to him, took both of his hands in hers and introduced herself. After she’d told him her name, where she was from and thanked him for his service, she told him about her husband, who had passed away the previous year. His name was Herb. But wait, there’s more. Her great-great-grandson riding on his dad’s hip only a few feet away — his middle name was also Herb. Mr. Weatherwax reached for the baby who went right to him. He held him the rest of the time we chatted.
Last year, maybe on Veteran’s Day, there was an AP article in The Tennessean, with a full-page article and color picture of, yep, Herb Weatherwax or Uncle Herb as he was affectionately known by the locals. I can’t get into my Tennessean online account or I’d put a link. (I really dislike The Tennessean and there are few things I really dislike!) We couldn’t believe he was still kicking. Unfortunately, he wouldn’t be for much longer. He passed away in December 2016.
My dad (RIP) was a veteran. He was in the army when I was born. I did wait for him to get home before I decided to see the outside world. Our grandson couldn’t do that as his dad had another three months of deployment. Hubby is an Air Force vet; his dad (RIP) was in the army. Of course, middle-son is a career Marine. I’ve blogged about our god child Xander several times. His dad is career Navy. His duty station is.a submarine.
Thanks to all of you for your service. A special note Xander’s dad to middle-son, who are both still active duty: I love you! Keep your head down!