During the spring of 1945, there was a war on in the Pacific, as well as over Europe. At home young men were being called up to fight in what Studs Terkel called "The Good War."
Even though his employer offered him an exemption from the draft, Ed decided he wanted to join the war effort and so took the J Car to the main LA Post Office to enlist in the Navy. When he got there the line went out the door and down the block. Thinking of all that he had heard about military life being nothing more than waiting in line, he decided not to stand in line to do so.
As he turned away, he saw a Marine Corps Recruiting Office that was empty but for the sergeant who was working there. Sticking his head in the door, he asked the Marine for some information about the Corps. Jumping up, the young buck sergeant came to the door, grabbed Ed's elbow, led him to a chair by the desk with a stack of papers and said, "Well, if you'll just sit right here and sign these forms, I can give you all the information you need."
Within hours he was back home, trying to talk his parents into signing the waiver since he was still a few months shy of eighteen, the minimum age for enlistment. His mother's resistance was so strong that he finally said, "Okay, I'll just join when I turn 18 and you won't be seeing much of me afterwards, but I will join the Marine Corps." She signed the form.
Immediately after graduating from the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego, he sent this photo home to Mom, who proudly hung it in her home where I found it many, many years later in a different state and in a different house, but still proudly hung.In February of this year, we spent a week in San Diego at a reunion of Marines who were commissioned to lead men into battle in Korea. As part of the activities we were guests of honor at a Recruit Depot Graduation Ceremony. Although none of the young Marines who graduated that day were as attractive as Ed, they were every bit as young.
Sometimes it seems, due to the iconic photograph of the sailor and the nurse kissing in Times Square, that only New York held a celebration on V-J Day. But San Diego was the home port of many of the sailors and marines who were fighting the Japanese in the Pacific, and the celebration there was as exuberant. This is a photo of downtown San Diego as the news was beginning to spread.
Ed's first assignment as a private was to join with a more experienced Marine (he had four months in) to patrol the streets of San Diego on V-J Day. Their orders were clear; unless damage was done to property or harm to people, the celebrants were to be allowed their party.
He always claimed that the hardest rank for him to earn was PFC, especially after the war ended and promotions slowed as the force was cut back. He was sent to the French Arsenal at Tientsin, China on a literal slow boat to China. Some of the fondest memories of his service were made there, as were friendships that lasted a lifetime.
He quickly progressed through the enlisted ranks and made E-9 (which was the top in those days) within seven years.
Ed's on the far left in both photos which is an interesting coincidence since he was, even then, a political liberal.
By then the Korean War was heating up and second lieutenants were in high demand. Even though he lacked a high school diploma, Ed tested out at a college level and was quickly accepted into the Officers' Candidate School at Quantico. He spent an additional twenty years on active duty in the Marine Corps before retiring as a Lt Col in 1972.
But even after retirement, he was still a Marine and in 1990, when his daughter asked him to give her away in his evening dress, he worked his butt off to get in shape. As you can tell from this photo, he thought it was worth it.
Although I lost his physical presence in my life last month, my heart is filled with the memories we shared. The one that is the reason for this diary occurred a few years ago when I saw a diary with photos of volunteers at Netroots Nation filling boxes for the troops. Thinking of sending a donation, I asked Ed about how servicemen felt receiving care packages from strangers.
He told me that when he was overseas as a young Marine, the food they got was basic mess hall or C Rations. There were no McDonalds or Halliburton, only lowly Marines preparing chow. When there was a mail call that included packages with say, tabasco sauce or chili powder, a major feast occurred as they pooled their resources and doctored up the issued food to make it palatable. Not only were the packages valued for their contents, but for the fact that someone at home, known or not, cared enough to send them.
The troops today are very much like those of fifty or even a hundred years ago. Young, often homesick, in danger or bored, more than the packaged items themselves, they need the comfort those items bring. And a great deal of that comfort comes from the belief that they are not forgotten and that those at home value the sacrifices they are making in the service of their country.
We donated that year, and every year since. There are young service members in Afghanistan today that need to know that we remember them. And that even if the media pretends there is no war, we remember that they are there and we care.
Can you help?
The NFTT diaries are a way for the Daily Kos community to support the troops in Afghanistan. We send them packages of items they might not otherwise receive through the normal military process but that they find useful. This is a non-political diary. While we understand there are differing views on the wars and the warriors, the site gives plenty of opportunity to express those views elsewhere. Furthermore, we would hope that users do not engage with those that attempt to hijack or otherwise disrupt these diaries.
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