Since it’s Veteran’s Day, I should write about my father. I’ve previously written about him but this time I’ll flesh out more details.
My father was almost 19 and living in New York City when Japan bombed Pearl Harbor and brought the U.S. into the Second World War. He joined the Army-Air Corps and was sent to Australia, where he was part of Gen. McArthur’s island hopping campaign in the Pacific all the way to the Philippines.
After his unit was the first American military force to enter Dagupan (in the northern Philippines) after the Japanese evacuated, he met my mother, who was right around 18, at a liberation fiesta. His unit remained in the area, and he continued to court my mother as preparations were made for the invasion of Japan. He was a Captain when the war ended and declined a promotion to Major because he wanted to leave the military to marry my mother and work with her family.
Although my mother’s family owned the largest rice plantation in the province, my father had no interest in agriculture. He was going to help the family embark on a new venture thanks to two fortuitous factors.
First, the family owned a truck in excellent condition. When war broke out, they quickly built a false wall in one of their barns and hid the truck. It was never discovered by the Japanese despite regular searches.
Second, my father was in the logistics section of the Army-Air Corps. The military wanted to get the troops back home as quickly as possible but there was lots of military equipment which needed to be transported to ports. Contracting the job to civilians allowed the troops to go home and provided needed cash to the recovering economy.
Thanks to the family truck and my father’s connections to logistics contracting officers, my mother’s family was able to get in on the military equipment transport business. The money from this work led to their creating a bus company to transport people and goods between their hometown, Manila and intermediate cities.
I guess all this work delayed my birth to 1951, six years after the war ended. But my parents divorced before I began kindergarten. I think there were too many socio-cultural issues working against them, including religion.
My mother and her side of the family was Catholic while my father and his side of the family was Jewish. Back then, I think both Catholics and Jewish folks wanted their children to marry within the faith. Also, my father was marrying a “foreigner.”
My father returned to New York City, where he met and married a Jewish woman from Manhattan. They moved to Florida a few years later.
Because I was so young when my parents divorced, I have no childhood memories of my father. After I came to Florida for college, we began talking on the phone weekly and I’d visit him during holidays.
Although he had two sons with his second wife, everyone says that I am his spitting image. And we shared certain traits, such as always looking for a deal and stocking up on sale items.
My father passed away in 2002 at age 79. As a veteran, he was given a full military burial at Arlington National Cemetery complete with horse drawn carriage and band, 21-gun salute and flag folding ceremony. I’ve never seen a more impressive ceremony.
Although we never had a “father and son” relationship, that actually may have been a good thing. Because we had a great adult relationship.