Final duty station for a local World War II Navy man
Call it fate, luck, or whatever you may believe. I only know that the odds were one in a million.
An unsolicited phone call made at a precise moment in a span of 65 years surely put a smile on a lot of faces. Then the big call or, as you might say, the call that was priceless to me. I was speechless when I called my mom. My words were, “Mom, I found a home for Dad.” After a 10-second explanation, we both went silent for the next couple of minutes. We both knew that he was going to live on forever for many to see, his spirit within.
That night, I laid his uniform out on the bed to spend one last night in my home. He will be looked at every day, not stowed in the dark, alone. I brushed his uniform, molded his hat and straightened his neckerchief. I know he is proud of all of us. As of this writing, my girlfriend Norma Jean Harstvedt and I are en route on the Holland America Line’s ship the Oosterdam toward Alaska to visit Dad. He is standing there at the door waiting for us to arrive. I can’t wait to take photos for the family.
We are passing his life and memories on to the Sitka Museum for their pleasure. I will have to caution them on his “sailor-like” behavior and hope that they can keep him in check. We all know what “Night at the Museum” can be like.
Upon our departure for this trip, I asked my mom, Betty Baker, if she had a memento that she would like him to carry at all times. I never guessed that she would hand me their original wedding bands to put in his hip pocket. They were pretty inspirational for the 57 years they were married until Owen’s passing. She said that keeping them with him was a token of her love for him and a reminder to behave while he is away, and that he wouldn’t be standing there all alone every night because now she would be there with him into the next century and beyond.
There are a lot of military items out there in the world that we could share with future generations. I suggest that we look again how veterans served us and what we can do to keep their actions and memories alive. Find a museum or local military affiliation, VFW, American Legion, or whatever to donate. On my last pass through Washington, DC. I took some pictures of the Vietnam Memorial to share with my niece and nephews in tribute to their father, Leslie Burr. I also took the time to etch the name of Ricky Wood, a fallen soldier in Vietnam. I took the etching to his big brother, Jimmy, with a hug and a hope that someday he will heal. We can never thanks these guys enough for their sacrifices.