When I was in grade school in San Diego, we had one car. Mom used to get my brother and I up, pile us in the car to take my Dad to Fleet Landing on the city side of the harbour so he could catch a boat to the carrier, the Bonn Homme Richard CV31. We had a little 1960 Convair and my mom would keep the car to run errands during the day while my brother and I were in school.
I was reminded of this when I watched a behind the scenes episode of Oprah about the Bravest Families. Military families. No one knows what life is like for military wives and children, sometimes setting up home and dealing with life without the benefit of their spouse and parent. My mom and dad were from small towns in Texas. They moved to California when my Dad was stationed on a carrier. My dad went on two West Pacific deployments in the early 1960’s for about 10 months each time. My mom handled the finances, took care of my brother and I and dealt with the day to day by herself. It was during a time when women’s liberation had not yet evolved, but she had a head start on some aspects of independence, at a time when June Cleaver was the norm.
I have the lyrics to Dinah Washington, Nat King Cole and Johnny Mathis songs in my head from all the lps my mom played in the evenings after she had put my brother and I to bed. Our neighbor, who was a teacher, complained about the late night music once. My mom moved the stereo so it was not against the wall that joined our side of the duplex with our neighbors. I now know why I developed a love for jazz and R&B because of the albums she listened to.
My mom got real sick from her nerves when we lived in the Philippines. My dad was finally was off the carrier. It was 1966 and he had one transfer to Bremerton, Washington for six months while the carrier was in dry dock. He asked for Spain and got the PI. Olongapo City which is outside the gates of Subic Bay, was culture shock for my mom. We had to live out in town, with the sewage canal running outside out front gate. I have a distinct memory of her screaming in the bathroom because a rat was caught in her bathcap that was hanging in the shower stall. As children, my brother and I had no idea what my parents went through, but now with children (and grandchildren, in my case) of our own, we now have an idea what our parents dealt with.
Because I lived in a third world country, because I went from one duty station to the next, changing schools and changing friends, I grew up believing that we, as a Nation should be more like Israel. Everyone should serve in some capacity. Everyone should sacrifice for family, for country…When we were stationed in the Philippines, it was the beginning of the Viet Nam War. When we returned stateside, it was the middle of the anti-war protest. There were no welcoming parades for our military. There was no pride of Nation for those who served. On that Oprah episode about military families, Tom Brokaw stated that 1% of our Nation carries 100% of the responsibility for protecting this country. 1%.