Sunday, May 24, 2009
A Veteran's Memory Told Grandpa Style
It’s Memorial Day weekend which means folks will be out having a good time if the weather doesn’t spoil everything. Celebrating the sacrifice of military men and women is a good thing. I still say that there should be a law that says when their tour of duty is over, any debts they had are paid and they get a 300 point bonus on their credit score. If they are killed in combat then we do it for their families. Maybe we should let their kids go to college for free too. I don't think men and women who go to war should have to struggle when they come home. So many politicians are quick to kiss up to the troops to make themselves look good but they don't really do a damn thing for them.
I thought I would share the only World War II story I have from my grandfather Walter Harris Sr. My grandfather always talked to me anything and everything except his time in the war. I never asked him about it because since he talked so openly about everything else I figured it was just one of those things that he didn’t like to talk about. I remembered him mentioning one time he was a gunner on a Navy ship. I was always curious about it. One day about ten years ago we were sitting in his TV room watching the Atlanta Braves play the San Diego Padres. The cameras got a shot of the sailors watching the game in the outfield bleachers and that led to this conversation. This is almost verbatim and told through my grandfather’s Seventh Ward dialect as well as I can type it. I'm probably not going to do it any justice and make it as funny as it was when he told me.
Grandpa: Them boys just docked at the port down there. That’s where we used to come in…through San Diego.
Grandpa: Yeah.....you get off the boat after being over that water for a long time you looking for a game or something to get into. I was on a minesweeper around that time. Going through those channels in the Pacific
Me: It’s that only boat you were on.
Grandpa: No….I was on a battleship for awhile too
Me: Remember when you told me you were a gunner? How did you pull that off?
Grandpa: When we first got on the ship they had us all in the kitchen. One day we got attacked and I was down in the kitchen. I went to the captain and told him if a son of a bitch is going to be shooting at me on this ship then I want to be on a gun or something because if I’m dying I rather be shooting one of them sons a bitches too.
Me: What did the captain say?
Grandpa: He said fool you crazy! Don’t nobody asked to be here around all this stuff going on. Anybody crazy as you need to have their ass up here and that’s how I got on the gun. I still had to cook and everything too but when the fighting started I went up there to help.
I am sure the real scenario was much more complex than that and that he was trained to do whatever job he was doing on the ship. When an old man shares a war story with you for the first time you don't ask many followup questions. As far as I am concerned this story is exactly what happened. As I sit under this patio enjoying the right to drink a cold beer in honor of the best old dude ever, I hope all the veterans are having a good weekend.