Sunday, May 28, 2017


My grandmother called it Decoration Day, when the graves were decorated with flowers or wreaths. But to me, the term "Memorial Day" really says it all. Remembering.

I didn't plan on searching for my Dad's war correspondence on Sunday. Coming across some old photos of my grandparents'  led me to a sort and toss mission. (I kept more than I tossed, at least for now.) Among the things I found was a letter written by my dad the night before he was shipped out during World War II to India where he would participate in the China/Burma/Indian theater.

He told my grandparents about his adventures in San Francisco on a 12-hour leave a few days before and about his activities in getting ready to leave. But much of the letter reminded them not to worry.

The words in the letter were calming but filled with uncertainty. "We still don't know where we're gong but know it's supposed to be tropical service," he writes.

But he appeared to find it of some comfort that they would keep together the team of guys who served together at Fort Custer.

He reminds his parents that they shouldn't believe everything they hear on the news. Propaganda is frequent and he tells of fellows whose boat was said to have sunk but it was just fine. "The old saying 'no news is good news' holds true in these times," he writes.

He reminds them that mail may take a long while to arrive and again, not to worry, saying it may take from six weeks to six months.

And there is great uncertainty. "We can only guess at our destinations.... for the present our destination is X." Destination X ended up being India.

The letters from India are chatty. He writes of spending time in the mountains over the holiday at what sounded like a lovely spot.

And in this lovely spot he also appeared to be rather smitten with a tea planter's daughter.

Might this photo be of the tea plantation he visited? Perhaps.

Other letters speak to the loneliness and difference in spending a Christmas away from home.

Another speaks to my grandmother's birthday and his apologies for not sending something.

During my dad's time in India, he took hundreds of photos (it runs in the family; you should have seen the boatload of pix my grandparents took!) They tell the story of a world completely different from any he'd ever seen before.

There were people of great poverty.

Sacred cows.

Snake charmers.

As I read through the letters I was reminded of the stories of so many young men who ventured off in service to their country for any number of wars. An obituary in this week's news highlighted the life of a man in our community who fought in the European theatre and whom we had interviewed for our World War II special years ago. My high school boyfriend went to Vietnam, joining the Air Force after high school.

One day you're at the prom; then you're in a strange land. Your girlfriend is at college, experiencing new things, new people, just as you are. Yet you are world's apart, literally and figuratively.

I often wonder about that, knowing now what we know about Vietnam and feeling a good deal of guilt for not recognizing the conditions and the horror of that time and place. I can only hope he has forgiven me for simply not understanding.

These days I read stories, listen to the news and hear about the grim battles being fought all over the world. I know the young men and women who are doing these things are like my dad or like Ron was -- men and women who left families, girlfriends and boyfriends, the comforts of home, the security of knowing that in general their lives were safe -- for new places, new experience and often, dreadful things.

So, when I think of Memorial Day, I do think of those like my dad who have died, of those who are no longer here, whether they died in battle or years after. I think of my mom and aunt and friends whom I remember with a full heart and much love.

But, as I do on Veterans Day, I also think of those who went to war, who served and still live on. Some sharing stories that have been locked in their minds for many years. Stories that will perhaps teach us and remind us that war may well be fought for good causes, even necessary ones. But not all endings are happy. Our best gift to them may indeed be to remember.


  1. I remember my grandfather and great aunt calling it Decoration Day. God bless those throughout history and now who have given their lives in the name of our country.

  2. That was an incredible post, Jeanie. Your father's handwriting is beautiful. The pictures of India are amazing. Thank you so much for sharing this. -Jenn

  3. Jeanie,
    This is a very moving post and causes one to reflect, as one should, at the great sacrifices, bravery and commitment that our courageous service men and women have given to our great Country. My Grandfather fought in the Spanish American War, My Dad and Aunt in WWII. We have a Son-In-Law in the Air Force who may be deployed in December.
    These photos are so touching, as are the letters. Time slips away doesn't it.
    God Bless America and all of those you did and do serve.

  4. Thanks for sharing the lovely story of your Dad. Great that you have so many wonderful memories of him. Happy Memorial Day, hugs, Valerie

  5. What a wonderfully personal story of Memorial Day. It was so good to see these photos that didn't involve battlefields and death. Your father was one of the rather lucky ones, I feel.

    I liked the fact that your father was very well educated and had such lovely handwriting. So glad you shared these memories today.

    I was talking to some ladies recently who were talking about the "war." I asked which war they were referring to and they said WWII. They asked which war I thought of and immediately said Vietnam. That was the war I grew up reading about, hearing about on the radio (we had no TV because my grandfather said it distracted from my studies), and talking about in school. It was almost over when I was in High School, so the idea of getting out was even more on everyone's mind.

  6. A lovely post, Jeanie, and a wonderful tribute your Dad.

  7. A beautiful and poignant tribute to your late father. My he was so handsome and he had such good handwriting too. I'm sure the world of India and all it's ways was fascinating to him and I'm also sure it opened up a world of far away places to you when he returned home. God bless all the soldiers who sacrificed so much for all of us. Hugs. xx

  8. My dad was in India and China also during WWII. He also took a lot of photos. But unfortunately all I have of his war travels are the photos. I guess that is a lot. I love seeing your father's view of India which was a little different than my dad's. What adventures those young men went on. Yes, it is a good day to remember. Hugs-Erika

  9. I love listening to you . . .
    Lovely, lovely post . . .
    Oh my . . .

  10. Beautiful post! My Dad served in Korea and Vietnam. While he didn't die in a war he was diagnosed with Parkinson's and Lewy Body Dementia probably from agent orange in Vietnam. He died way sooner then he should have. I will miss him always and be forever proud of his service to our country. Hugs!

  11. Touching post, Jeanie. I've written a couple around my Dad, who served in WWII. Many of his letters were by V-mail (handwritten, then put on microfilm for easier air transport, and printed once home), many with censored blackout info. My Dad was primarily in Italy. I enjoyed reading about your family's experiences.

  12. Those letters are precious. Letters are almost a thing of the past. Sad.

  13. This is a nice post of remembrance, Jeanie. And those letters are treasured letters for sure. I love the picture of you and your high school boyfriend. You were smiling even back then.

    Happy Memorial Day, my dear.


  14. Dearest Jeanie,
    this post of yours is so touching, I'm moved to tears ... I'm sincerely grateful to you for having shared this piece of History, of your family's history with us !

    Wishing you and yours a Happy Memorial Day,
    I'm sending blessings across the miles

    XOXO Dany

  15. Jeanie thank you for sharing this with us. Your dad must have been a remarkable man. And his letters show so much sensitivity and kindness. May we always remember all the men and women out there who have fought for our country.

  16. You are right dear Jeanie. To remember is how they are kept alive. We will be remembered as well, in the hearts of the children we either bore or taught. What a lovely man your father was....

    Live to be someone's fond memory dearest Jeanie!

  17. This is such a beautiful post full of love for your Father and family. War has touched and continues to touch so many families. Thank you for sharing your Father's letters.

  18. What a heartfelt post, Jeanie. It must be very special to have these letters, to read them so many years later (beautiful handwriting, by the way!) and remember the person who wrote them.

  19. Priceless treasures that give a first hand glimpse into dark times. Thank you for sharing some of your father's personal journey. It is extremely important that we remember, honour and are grateful for those who have allowed us to have the liberties and lifestyle of today.

  20. What a lovely post about your father. He had beautiful hand writing. I remember WW II as I was sent off to live with my Aunt in Virginia as mother and dad were working in a defense plant making B29's. I was at piano lessons when there was shouting in the streets that the war was over. The teacher excused me and I hurried home to my Aunties house to tell them the good news. I knew that my mother would soon be coming to take me back home and I was so excited. We lived in Cleveland Ohio and they had purchased a home in Euclid and I got a dog.

    Your father was a very handsome man and those poor people in India. I am sure it really was hard for him to see how poor they were.

    Have a great week.


  21. Jeanie, what a post! I enjoyed your thoughts and the photos. Thank you for this.

  22. Every time you post one of these family chronicles, I'm envious again -- not in a bad way, but in a good, sort of poignant way. You're so blessed to have all these photos, and the correspondence. I have just enough to stir memories, but not nearly enough to answer all the questions!

    One of the interesting side notes here are the number of graves, monuments, and ceremonies related to the Civil War. In the historic Galveston cemeteries, Union and Confederate soldiers alike are honored, and there are some amazing stories involved.

    I hope your weekend was a good one -- and by the way, Dixie Rose is seeming better every day. You fuss over your adorable grandbaby, I fuss over my cat -- what a world!

  23. It's wonderful that you have all those letters your very handsome Dad wrote and the pictures he took, Jeanie. His words were kind and his descriptions very so lively. These letters must have been comforting for your grandparents. Your Dad must have been an amazing guy.
    xo Julia

  24. FANTASTIC post! Thank you for sharing the letters. My dad was Navy, 22 yrs. Thanks to all that have past for keeping our nation safe!

  25. Great post to honor those you know who served. We sat out pics of family here for our BBQ to remembere those loved ones in our family who served. Have a good week Jeanie.....

  26. War is just so horrific.
    Thanks for sharing this with us, Jeanie. It was very insightful and well written.

  27. Hello Jeanie, this is a very special post. I love the way you share your father's letters. I hope there was not too much tossing going on!!
    Wren x

  28. This is such a good post! I sure loved it, the letters, the pictures, and the history. What nice handwriting in those letters too! Really interesting and important pieces of history you have there.

  29. Jeanie, I so enjoyed reading your thoughts and seeing the photos. May we always remember those who have paid the price for our freedom. I was amazed at seeing the lovely handwriting of your Dad's and having those letters are a treasure...thanks for sharing such a heartwarming post!

  30. great stories and photos! Thanks so much for sharing!

  31. There is so much packed in this post. First of all, I was struck by your father's beautiful handwriting. Don't you love seeing the handwriting of those whom have left us. What treasures those handwritten letters are. Then, I was struck with how thoughtful he was to reassure his parents. He didn't just tell them news, he tried to make sure they didn't worry about things that were to come.

    I loved the photos of the times in India when he was there. Those too are a treasure.

    Then, there is that final photo of your father. What a handsome and intelligent and kind face he has. He exudes confidence in the way he looks at the camera and in his body language.

    Finally, I loved how you spoke of your high school boyfriend and of how the divide between you came to be. Those days divided many. I too hope someday we all will understand each other better.

  32. Wow, I love looking at old pictures. I especially like the snake charmer picture. Also impressed with the handwriting.

  33. fascinating Jeanie, how wonderful to have those letters and photos,I can't imagine how scary that must have been. God bless all that serve to keep us safe and free!

  34. Love this post and the photos..what a HANDSOME man..had to say:)
    And the way he wrote..penmanship is not what it was.. don't tell me snail mail isn't valuable.
    You have so many great memories..on paper.

    Sent you 2 private emails and added as a contact..let me know:)

  35. I have the deepest gratitude for all the many men and women who gave up their creature comforts so that I could continue to have mine. What a wonderful legacy your dad left through his photos and letters. I don't think emails have the same lasting treasure for loved ones. Your dad surely had film star good looks but I know he must have also been a wonderful man to have raised you. Have a beautiful week full of sunshine.

  36. Your dad was quite handsome. His writing reminds me of my mother's writing. Love, love his pictures and his fascination of course with the tea planter's daughter. What wonderful memories he shared with his family.

  37. Your dad was so handsome. And he had beautiful handwriting. What a gift to have these letters he wrote. My dad was in the Navy during Vietnam but not in active warfare. But it was tough to be away as my mom had their first child during his service. He missed the first 6 months of my brother's life. I can't imagine how hard it was for my mom to be alone. My dad wrote letters every day but my mom said we can never read them (they must have been a bit steamy!!!!!). I'm so grateful for all the sacrifices that the men and women in the armed forces have made!

  38. What a story, Jeanie! Your father was sooooo handsome and had such beautiful handwriting AND really knew how to write a letter that said something. Instead of the often seen: "Dear Mom and Dad, how are you? I am fine."

  39. Great post. I've never heard it called Decoration Day. I think Memorial Day is a little more appropriate, but it's nice to think of the decorations going up.


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