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Troops return to memory on holiday

Last Veterans Day, I strung my dads dog tags through a silver chain and clasped them around my neck. I made a vow then that I would not take off Dads tags until our troops come back from Iraq. Now, this Memorial Day, those tags are still around my neck. Dads tags are from the three years he served in the U.S. Navy during World War II. Born and raised in San Diego, Dad joined the Navy just as soon as he was old enough. He was still in high school in 1944 when he and his buddies marched right out of school and right into the Navy recruiting office. Dad served on a troop transport ship in the Pacific, shuttling GIs back and forth between the States, Hawaii, the Philippines and Japan. He didnt talk much about the specifics of his time in the service, and I never pressed him. Now that hes gone, I wish I knew more. Dad put together some pretty amazing photo books from his Navy days, and along with his tags, I have one of them. On the first page of the book, in his handwriting, it says, This book, to you, will be just people and places. To me, it means a lot of good times, and some, not so good. Inside that book are photos of Dad and his Navy buddies in their uniforms, and in their dress whites. Theyre so young and cocky, posing on Waikiki Beach with Diamond Head in the background, or on a street in the Philippines. There are photos of shirtless guys on board the ship somewhere in the middle of the ocean, swabbing the deck, horsing around, their sailors caps jauntily off to one side. A guy named Gordon, another one named Spencer, someone named Bob. I thought about my dad and those guys this Memorial Day, and I thought about the troops they transported. Dads ship stayed out of harms way during much of the war, though they were attacked more than once. Im not sure which of the boys in the pictures might have been wounded or killed during those attacks. I look at their faces, and they seem so alive, so full of themselves. I think about the thousands of troops Dads ship transported, too. Many of them never returned. Like the troops in the Middle East today, they were young just starting their lives but never had a chance to grow up, live their lives, look back. They were gone before their time.Dad was one of the lucky ones. Near the end of his photo book are pictures of the ship with the Golden Gate Bridge in the foreground. First view of San Francisco with 1,000 GIs he wrote. Leaving the ship for discharge, he wrote on another page. It was 1946, and he had his whole life ahead of him. I am grateful that fate spared my father so many years ago. Ill continue to wear his dog tags in honor of all those serving then and now for those who will come back to us and those who will not.Carrie Click is the editor of The Citizen Telegram in Rifle, and the western Garfield County bureau editor of the Post Independent. Carrie can be reached at 625-3245, ext. 101, cclick@postindependent.com.


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