Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Veterans Day 2014

Vic L., Lieutenant JG, U.S. Navy

Dear George,
Our family’s connection to Veterans’ Day goes back to the 1940’s.  My dad, Vic L., was 34 when the U.S. entered World War II, and my mother, Doris, was 32.  Their age cohort right in the thick of the World War II generation, and that profoundly affected their lives; our family, friends, and community; and, of course, the nation and the entire world.  The scope and disastrous consequences of World War II are beyond imagination.  It’s estimated that 50,000,000 people died in World War II.  That included 405,399 U.S. military personnel -- over four times the number of U.S. military deaths in the Korean, Vietnam, Persian Gulf, Iraq, and Afghanistan wars combined.

Vic on leave with my brother Steve at our family river property, ca. 1944

My dad underwent officer training at the Great Lakes Naval Training Station on Lake Michigan just north of Chicago in the early 1940’s.  Earning the rank of Lieutenant JG, he was stationed on a communication ship in the Pacific Theater and spent months in occupied Japan at the end of the war.  He later described his wartime navy experiences as the most powerful and meaningful of his life.  

Vic (center) with two navy colleagues. 

In a rickshaw in Tokyo at the end of the war. 

My uncle Kent L. in uniform

My father always described his younger brother Kent L. as the family’s war hero.  To the best of my recollection, Kent earned a Silver Star and Bronze Star among other honors for his army combat service in major battles in the European theater.  He corralled a German Shepard Nazi war dog in the trenches in France, named him ARCO, and brought him back to Menominee where he became our playmate.  After the war Kent was elected commander of the Menominee American Legion post and later became the state commander of the American Legion in Michigan.  

Veterans (+ Steve and Dave) at a flag-raising at our house in 1946

My dad and his friends, most notably Pat Steffke and Michael O’Hara, shared strong bonds from their World War II experience.  From the left, Vic in his navy uniform, Pat Steffke in his army uniform, and Michael O’Hara in his marines uniform.  Mike O’Hara led a platoon of 16 African-American Marines in battle at Okinawa.

Some seventy years later it’s hard to even imagine the courage and fortitude required of our parents and family friends during this prolonged world crisis.  It calls for a lot of respect and gratitude from succeeding generations.  I’m glad that Veteran’s Day comes around each year as a reminder.

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