Veteran’s Day

November 11th, 2015 10 Comments

American flag


It being Veteran’s Day and all, I was thinking about my parents. Neither one of them were natural soldiers or heroes in any traditional and conventional sense of that word, but like practically everyone else of that generation, the Monday morning after Pearl Harbor, my father went down to enlist in the Navy, and my mother followed suit shortly after.

My father had dreams of being a frogman (the precursors to today’s Seals) because of his swimming ability. Fortunately, an accident in training blew out one of his ear drums and he spent the war serving as a lieutenant on transport ships; otherwise, I almost certainly wouldn’t be here today, since my father was almost as ill-equipped to be a military man as his feckless son.

My mother managed to get a top-secret job on the Navy intelligence team that finally broke the Japanese code. There was no such thing as a computer in those days, and the team consisted of an eclectic assortment of civilians—mathematicians, housewives, schoolteachers, men too old or unfit to serve elsewhere—who shared a common ability for finding patterns in random groupings of words and numbers. She never once spoke of it until the day I just happened to home visiting and just happened to pick up the mail for her. There was a letter to her from the Department of the Navy, but even when I queried her, she dismissed it all by showing me a few simple cryptograms and telling a few anecdotes of some her fellow team members. (One of those, incidentally, was a British Naval Officer who went on to serve at Bletchley Park, where the first computer was invented by Alan Turing, an incident made famous by the recent movie, The Imitation Game.)

They were ordinary people, my extraordinary parents, but they were members of the greatest generation, made great by time and circumstances they would have preferred not to have known. They, and all the courageous men and women who serve in uniform today, deserve to be remembered with gratitude, and to be emulated.

Share Button
Follow me at:
  1. Anonymous says:

    Amen to that! Great post, JP!

  2. Anonymous says:


    Thanks for sharing that bit about your parents. We owe your parents and all those others from back then and those who have served since then so much.


  3. Anonymous says:

    My father was in the Air Force during the Korean War. Unfortunately, he never talked about it so I do not know much about his service. I only remember a couple of occasions when he said something. One was that they went patrolling in the jungle. The other was about the food. He said that they had something called chipped beef on toast which they called SOS (shit on a shingle.)

    My husband had an uncle who was killed in World War II. He won the Purple Heart for saving another man’s life. My husband never meet him because he died during the war.

    I had an uncle who served in the Navy during World War II. He came back and became a Priest. I don’t know if that had anything to do with his service and what he witnessed or not.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Veterans Day Tribute 2015

  5. Anonymous says:

    Wow, I am impressed your mother was a part of a code breaking team. Then she went on to get on the wrong side of Richard Nixon.
    I saw the movie the Imitation Game. It was about Alan Turing and his group and how the broke the codes from the Enigma machine. In order to break the code Turing built what he called a thinking machine. We know this as a computer. This also shows the whole process and how the managed to get the machine to finally work. It was a fascinating movie.

    By the way the ending was truly sad. His thanks was to be arrested for engaging in homosexual behavior which was illegal at the time. He ended up committing suicide rather then live with the medication they gave him to curb his behavior.

  6. Anonymous says:

    A wonderful tribute to our men and women in uniform!

  7. Anonymous says:

    JP your parents were amazing! My grandfather fought in
    WW2. I keep his war picture by my bed to honour his memory.
    Every Nov 11 when he was alive i would call and thank him
    For my freedom. He was with the Canadians in Holland
    During the liberation.

    Tena French Halifax ns Canada

  8. Anonymous says:

    Hello JP,

    “To die completely, a person must not only forget but be forgotten, and who is not forgotten is not dead.”
    Samuel Butler

    Best wishes 🙂


  9. Anonymous says:

    Vos parents vous ont beaucoup parlé de ce qu’ils ont fait pendant la seconde guerre mondiale !!! C’est une grande chance. Les miens m’en ont parlé peu. Nous avons quand même visité des lieux stratégiques de cette guerre mais sans savoir les rôles qu’ils ont pu avoir. Mon père nous a emmenés voir un endroit en Allemagne où il a été prisonnier pendant plusieurs mois. C’était dans une forêt. J’ai aussi une photo de ma mère qui embrasse un soldat américain lors de la libération de la ville de Lille !!! . C’est la seule chose que je sais de la vie de mes parents pendant cette guerre. Maintenant il est trop tard 🙁

  10. Anonymous says:

    I am sure you have heard this by now, but Paris suffered multiple attacks and more then 100 people have died. It is a horrible situation.

Top of Page