A few years ago, I wrote a piece entitled Independence Day Reflections. In it, I tried to share the experiences and thoughts of one person visiting LST 325 in Boston. Yet that one person represented so many sons and daughters. This piece is a reflection of our thoughts as well.
Tomorrow is the Fourth of July. Capital Letters. National Holiday. Our Celebration of Independence.
But isn’t it also a celebration of dependence?
231 years of dependence.
We celebrate the day attending picnics and barbeques, going to the parade, having a slice of cold watermelon under the tree in the backyard as the day (hopefully) is filled with sunshine and a nice breeze. Some of us even pause to remember all of those who fought to keep our Nation free. More of us should do so. It’s the efforts of our military men and women who allow us the freedom to enjoy these relaxing and fun activities.
I pause. I think about my Dad of course, and the shipmates he served with during WWII. I think about my friends and relatives who served in Vietnam. Uncles who were in Korea. I think about relatives and the children of friends who are now serving in Iraq, Afghanistan, Korea and here in the U. S. I think of Uncle Joe and Uncle Ed who lie at the bottom of the Pacific. I wonder at Great Uncle Jack whose life ended all too soon on a bloody field in France during WWI. Great Uncle Stingley who was deaf from artillery at the end of the Civil War. A kaleidoscope of memories - of loved ones, recollections of friends who shared their family’s experiences and of all of those nameless faces on so many photographs that I have perused.
We depended on them to do the jobs they were assigned to do. Relied on them having a vision of what they wanted the future to be for themselves and their children. Making sacrifices - sometimes of limbs, sometimes of their lives.
We depended on them. We took them for granted. It still happens today, unless we have a loved one who is currently serving. Even now, those of us here at home often can’t grasp the sacrifices they are making. They make no complaints. Now, as then, they say, “I’m only doing my job.”
However, there is another group of people that we take for granted. Unsung heroes, often forgotten.
“Who are they”, you ask? They were girls who became a ‘Rosie-the-Riveter’ at the local aircraft factory or who ran a lathe to make parts for armaments. Some were in the service themselves, serving as munitions inspectors, nurses or clerical workers. Some were sisters in school who worked a part time job to help the family make ends meet and danced with those boys at the USO. Some were aunts or cousins who volunteered with the Red Cross. Children collected tin cans and glass bottles to help the war effort. All wrote to ‘their’ soldiers and tried to squeeze a little extra from the ration books to send a package from home. Some were high school students who raised a Victory Garden to help Mom put food on the table. Some were young men who weren’t old enough for service yet became the man of the family and worked a job after school, delivered a paper route and raised animals at home to provide an occasional bit of meat for themselves and others. Mothers who struggled to make ends meet, feed and care for children all the while worrying about their beloved who was serving ‘somewhere’. No telephone or computer contacts were possible. Only letters and those infrequent. All of this and more. The Nation depended on them and their efforts to provide what was needed for themselves, their families and neighbors and especially those serving.
Today, the tradition continues although a bit differently. We don’t have ration books. Gasoline, while expensive, isn’t rationed. Recycling isn’t out of necessity but out of a concern for the environment. The days of gardens in the back yard being a necessity to survive aren’t so frequent. Most children don’t work part time jobs to help the family endure. We still have families separated by distance while one serves. They still send packages and letters. They still frugally manage their income to make the most of what they have and still pay all of the bills. They work a job to assist the family while the loved one is away. They still yearn to touch the hand of their loved one who is in a Country far away. They still force themselves to take a deep breath before answering a knock at the door.
We live in one of the richest and most blessed Countries in the world. We depended on those who served, in the military and at home. We still do today. Maybe this Independence Day we should strive to be more like those the Nation depended on.
You aren’t forgotten – then or now. Happy Independence Day…to all of those we depend on.