Monday, July 13, 2009

Letters from Home, part II

In case you didn't notice, i have been delinquent in making new entries lately. Business opportunities seemed to grow exponentially recently, and moving our daughter back home for at least the summer have taken their tolls. i must confess i've played a bit more golf as well.

i will attempt to catch up through the rest of the month.

The below article was written for The Lebanon Democrat just before the Fourth of July.

SAN DIEGO – In a few days, we will celebrate Independence Day both in Lebanon and here in the Southwest corner.

We celebrate freedom but forget how letters from home helped in our defense of that freedom.

My generation’s warriors have defended freedom with mixed support or lack of it. Vietnam, two interventions in Iraq, and Afghanistan have caused schisms between our countrymen, not full support.

Still, letters from home have bolstered spirits during months on end away from loved ones.

The times leading up to the two “World Wars” also had hawks and doves in the halls of congress and on Main Street. But when our time came to join the fray, we did so with the vast majority of our country in total support. Those two wars had no borders and there was general agreement our way of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness was on the line.
Letters from home, not only bolstered the spirits of our warriors in the far flung corners of the world, but must have provided a strong sense of why the soldier-citizen was where he was doing what he was doing.

Several years ago, I wrote about a box my father gave me from his Seabee days in the Pacific in 1944-45. Until recently, I had not grasped how close he was to the action.

Jimmy Jewell volunteered for the Seabees in 1943, sometime around when I was conceived. After boot camp in August and training in Davisville, RI, he emerged as a Motor Machinist Mate (Technical) Second Class Petty Officer

While waiting in Gulfport, MS for shipping out, he briefly returned to Lebanon to be there for the birth of his first son (me). He saw me once more before embarking on his transit west. Way West. My aunt, Naomi Martin, and my mother took me to Gulfport, borrowing enough gas ration cards and four new tires for the round trip.

After transiting the Panama Canal, picking up more Seabees in San Francisco, and spending 56 days bobbing on the Pacific, my father was engaged in The War.
For a little less than two years, he was involved in campaigns in Espiritu Santo in the New Hebrides, Guadalcanal, Bougainville in the Solomon’s, New Guinea, and the Philippine Islands Leyte and Samar. He was discharged and returned to Lebanon just before my second Christmas in 1945.

There were many others from Lebanon who served. Some did not come back. From the Southwest corner, I cannot come close to a complete list, but others included fellow Seabee Aaron Hesson; my uncle Bill Prichard; Elmer Wiley; Joe Atkinson who served on PT Boats with John F. Kennedy; O.D. Dunn; and Jett Catron who trained pilots. I am sure their morale was also boosted by letters from home.

Several years ago, I wrote about my father giving me a baby blue box with his keepsakes from The War. There are many things in the small box too private to talk about. When he shared them with me, I felt like I had become a man.
Curiously, there are no letters from home in the box. I suspect his and her letters during their longest separation are in another box my mother has catalogued and neatly filed somewhere.

But there are pictures. One is a beautiful photo of my mother with the 5x7 envelope, addressed by my mother’s neat hand to the “MM 2/c, 846-04-24” in care of the 16th U.S.N. Construction Regiment. The envelope is postmarked April 28, 1944. Coarse handwriting in fountain pen indicates it was forwarded from the regiment to “75th CB 6-30-44.”

I am not sure when my father actually received it, but he carried it with him for the duration of the war.

Also in the box are two of my favorite photographs. One is my father in his sailor blues holding me in Gulfport just before he sailed. The other is one of my mother on a bicycle outside of our home on Castle Heights Avenue. They are worn, cracked, and faded. I suspect he also received these in letters from home.

It feels good I had a small part in World War II letters from home.

May we all enjoy the Fourth of July and our freedom.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Two poems

Two poems from recent years:


I wish I was
what I used to be,
but I never really was;
I wish I could do
what I used to do,
but never really did;
I wish I could have
what I used to have,
but never really had.

and the band played on.

- Bonita, California
- April 5, 2009

lunch with a young woman

he sat at the table waiting,
recognizing he was old;
she was a friend, associate
who would join him
for lunch, nothing more.
they talked through the meal
of aspirations: career, personal.
With all things considered,
their discussion was
amazingly forthright;

he was pleased her life was
going so well;
he was pleased his life was
going so well.
he had a longing to be
what he thought he had been
many years ago
(was it an illusion?)

she left for good things,
he left for old things,
not bad, just worn around the edges;
he realized, once again,
he was older than he thought,
a grandfather, settling into age
like a hen into her nest,
he had another daughter
because the world as well as
the woman who sat across from him
had recognized
he was an old man.

– Bonita, California
- March 4, 2008