On this Memorial Day, I thought I'd post a few notes about some of the veterans in my life.
My Mom served in the WASP (Woman Airforce Service Pilots). She packed her bags in Michigan and traveled to Avenger Field in Sweetwater Texas to train with other civilian women to fly military aircraft. She towed targets and ferried planes - tasks that freed male pilots to fight overseas.
In the end around 25,000 woman applied to the WASP program and 1,074 graduated. For years, the WASPs were not even considered veterans. In 1977 Jimmy Carter changed that and last year the WASPs were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal. Here is my Mom being saluted by her military escort for the ceremony after receiving the medal.
My Dad served in the 34th bomber group of the 8th Air Force as a Flight Engineer on B-17s flying out of eastern England. Near the end of the war, the 34th participated in a little known humanitarian mission called Operation Chowhound by the Americans and Operation Manna by the British. Germany occupied Holland and during the latter part of the war deprived civilians access to food. Over 18,000 Dutch died during the winter of 1944 which became known as the Winter of Hunger.
In April and May of 1945, the RAF and the 8th Air Force started running food drops to Holland. Dad recalls flying to Utrecht and dropping rations into a stadium full of people who had somehow managed to spell out "Thanks Yanks". Years later, he met a young KLM Flight Engineer who said he and his family were eating tulip bulbs when the B-17s arrived.
My father in law Leon served in the U.S. Army during World War II in the 406th anti tank infantry regiment of the 102nd Infantry Division known as the Ozarks.
Lee diffused land mines which must have been terrifying work. His photos show what must have been some very tough times - this division worked its way all the way across Germany and was just 50 miles from Berlin when the war in Europe ended.
My nephew Patrick served in the U.S. Navy on the U.S.S. Cole and was one of the 17 sailors killed on October 12, 2000.
He is sadly forever frozen at 19 to us. He would be 30 years old now and I often think of what he would be doing with his life had it not been cut short so early.
Thanks to all these veterans and all veterans everywhere.