Monday, May 27, 2013

Memorial Day

I live in the flight pattern of Van Nuys Airport which is home to the Antique Air force, vintage WWII planes that still fly for special occasions such as Memorial Day.  Moments ago a formation of five P-51 Mustangs growled through the sky above my house. It is rare you get to see a P-51 in action and it is even more rare to see five flying in military formation. It makes me think about what this day is all about. 
My Dad, Lt. Arthur Noel Johnson, Jr., served in WWII as a radar specialist on several Aircraft Carriers in the United States Navy, and because of his specialty in radar and navigation was recalled to serve in the Korean War.
He was on a ship and away at war when my Brother was born, and I learned to talk while he was away for the Korean war.
Dad had four brothers and no sisters.  My mom had three brothers and no sisters. When he returned from active duty Dad had two sons of his own.  At the time it seemed as if the Johnson's could produce only Y chromosome's, but Mom and Dad really wanted a daughter. They were contemplating adopting a Korean girl when Mom got pregnant. As things work out my sister was born. I have never let her forget that she was just that close to being Asian. 
Lt. Johnson - My Hero.
When he finally resigned his commission Dad had this uniformed picture taken and three copies made, one for each one of his kids. This is my copy of that picture on the right. It is not the way I remember my Dad, who passed almost two years ago, because in this picture he is not smiling. The way I remember it, he was always smiling and if he wasn't that meant I was probably in big trouble.
We remember our heroes who died in the armed services today, but there were many men and women who returned from combat duty. They are heroes too. People like my Dad who came back home to make the country he fought for better. 
My Dad was an excellent story teller and his Navy stories were some of my favorites. Growing up there was a framed picture of the Shanghai Harbor printed on silk hanging above my folk's piano.  It was a reproduction of the  late 1940's Shanghai sky line from the perspective of the bay.  In my mind I can still recall Dad looking intently at that picture from time to time.  From the stories I loved so much I knew where he "was" in those moments.
He was on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Blue Ridge with his binoculars. The Ship's time was different from mainland China time. One of the tallest buildings in Shanghai had a clock tower. By checking the time on the tower clock though his binoculars he could calculate what time it was back home. He would try to visualize what his young family was doing at that moment.  If he was on duty it  usually meant we were sound asleep half-way around the world, safe because of him.  
I don't think he needs those binoculars anymore, and he is sailing a ship where time doesn't exist, and just like when he was away from us on the Blue Ridge, I can't see him.  But I know he's "over there" still on duty, thinking about what I am doing, still making it safe for me, and the rest of his family.
I will always remember him on Memorial Day and everyday.
As you were,

1 comment:

Paulette G said...

What a wonderful remembrance on this Memorial Day!