Monday, November 12, 2007

Veteran’s Day: Evening Reflections

by Joyce DiPastena

I miss you, Mom. On this Veteran’s Day evening, I know you’d want me not just to remember you, but to remember your love for your country and the service that you gave her in the US Navy.

I remember how much you loved to talk about your days as a Navy WAVE. How your eyes lit with laughter when you told of the time in the mess hall, when you accidentally dumped your silverware off your tray into the trash and while you were digging around trying to fish it out, a sailor walked by and said, “What’s the matter, mate, didn’t you get enough to eat?”

I remember the songs you taught me as a child, the silly little ditties you’d march to during drill. “Ding ding ding ding ding, here comes my wagon, my wagon…I’m from the nutty factory,” and “Be kind to your web footed friends, for a duck may be somebody’s mother.”

I remember your stories of shore leave (even though you never actually served overseas), how the other sailors and WAVES liked to take you along, because they knew while they’d be drinking alcohol, you’d be drinking 7-Up, and would be sure they all got back to base safely.

I remember how, while growing up, when I’d wake you up from a deep slumber you’d come awake with an audible gasp and a shudder. You explained to me how you’d developed that habit while serving as a nurse in the Navy hospital during “death watch”, and how being woken up at night meant that a patient had died and you had to go help, and how much you dreaded that call…hence the gasp and shudder that accompanied a sudden awakening, even into my teenage years.

I remember the pride you had all your life in being able to say, “I was a Navy WAVE.” Not in a puffed up way, but in a, “Being able to serve my country for two years were some of the best days of my life,” kind of way.

I remember how much you loved your country, and how you taught me to love it too. To be a good citizen. To vote. To be respectful. To honor the great Founders of our nation and respect the Constitution as a divine document. To sing the great patriotic songs of our country: America, The Beautiful…My Country ‘Tis of Thee…The Star-Spangled Banner. And to honor the flag. How erect you would stand, with such a proud, but fond look in your eyes, whenever the flag passed by!

And tonight, after you’ve been gone for seven and a half years, I still remember this song you taught me from your Navy days:

When I was young life was one big whirl,
I never thought I’d see those gates of pearl,
But when I got there I was very old,
And everything there was blue and gold.

I met Saint Peter and he said to me,
“I see you’re a member of the ship’s company,
So of course I’ve reserved a place for you.
Mrs. Saint Peter was a Navy WAVE, too!”

I treasure all the memories and lessons you shared with me of your days as a Navy WAVE. I hope you and Mrs. Saint Peter are having a nice chat this evening. But as for me, tonight, Mama…I miss you.

4 comments:

  1. My great-aunt was a cook in the navy, and I used to listen to her stories and sit in wonder. It is a wonderful tribute you have written for your mother...and for so many others who have served our country.
    I pray my children may be proud and patriotic...and know what an honor it is to live in a free country.

    I am sure your mom misses being with you too.

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  2. Joyce, this is so beautiful. Thank you for the lovely tribute to your mother.

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  3. Thanks for your beautifully written, inspiring praise of your mother -- really one of what Tom Brokaw called "The Greataest Generation."

    Almost, Joyce, you make me wish I'd joined the WACs, WAVEs, or WAFs (Oh, we didn't have a USAF until 1950, so scratch that last one), instead of leading the relatively uneventrul life of a civil service clerk-stenographer, typing up livestock market news or adding interminably long payroll columns for Ag. Dept. employees, or later still, transcribing letters and filling out vouchers to help high school boys become pilots, then finally banging out absolutely error-free letters with ten carbon copies underneath, to be signed by the Secretary of Defense (who I never met) to the Secretary of, for instance, Agricuture. (Sigh.) My husband, on the other hand, met with more action than he wiahed. I suppose it takes all kinds to win a war, whatever the kind.

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  4. What a wonderful and loving tribute, Joyce! Thank you for sharing those memories. I recently interviewed a former Navy WAVE. she couldn't wait to tell me about how she just joined an organization of retired/discharged WAVEs. She even got to be in a parade on Monday. It was a privilege to see the light in her eyes as she shared her life during her military days.

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