A Memorial Day Tribute
One woman remembers how men she knows served the country.
“I wasn’t going to let a little thing like flat feet keep me from doing my duty to my country.” Arthur B. Little, Merchant Marines (World War II)
Memorial Day is a federal holiday set aside to honor the memories of those who have given the ultimate sacrifice serving in the Armed Forces. The special day, formerly called Decoration Day, started after the Civil War in honor of those soldiers who had fallen. In the 20th Century, it was renamed Memorial Day and was extended to honor all American fallen soldiers in all wars since the founding of our nation.
Today, thousands of Cub, Boy and Eagle Scouts around the country will place American flags at the tombstones of soldiers in military cemeteries. Families will gather for picnics or cookouts and talk about members who served. Other families will travel to Washington, DC and tour the monuments erected to honor their loved ones. The one thing we will all have in common for a day is to honor real heroes who probably never considered themselves heroes—the men and women who every day guard our freedoms by serving in the US Armed Forces.
I would like to honor three of them that are special to me—my father, my father-in-law, and my grandfather, two of these heroes are still alive; one is not.
My father served three years in the US Navy during peacetime. He was stationed in Norfolk, Va. and when our family visited him, he chuckled, “Those signs are still there,” (the sign in a neighborhood yard read, “Sailors and dogs not welcome”). I was slightly offended, but he had three daughters and understood.
My dad found the Lord in the Navy. When he got out of the Navy, the G.I. Bill helped him through college. Today, my father is a senior pastor—16 years in Lexington, Kentucky, and the last 25 years in Fort Myers, Florida. He is the most balanced and best man I have ever known. My dad has always been proud of his service to his country.
My father-in-law also served three years in the US Navy during the Korean War on the USS Hector. Seven years ago, my husband Robert had the great privilege of working with Sen. Jim DeMint’s office to get the medals his dad had earned. Robert presented his dad the medals and a framed picture of his ship at a family gathering in front of all 10 of his children and most of his grandchildren. Today, that picture of his ship and his fellow sailors hang on a wall in his den. My father-in-law is a retired conservation officer from Wabash, Ind.
Arthur B. Little, my grandfather, joined the Merchant Marines because “Uncle Sam wouldn’t have him.” He had flat feet—probably something he didn’t even know till they turned him down. He would not have his brothers going off to war and him staying here. In the Merchant Marines, he served in the Far East area. One thing many of the World War II veterans have in common is they don’t talk much about their service. I know he saw things he would never talk about, but one thing he learned in the Merchant Marines was to drive a big boat, which he did for his career driving ferries across Lake Michigan. I remember one Christmas in Michigan I was singing one of my favorite Christmas songs, “White Christmas.” He told me he hated that song. I was shocked—everyone likes that song! He thought that it was almost sacrilegious that Bing Crosby would sing that song to soldiers who were doing everything they could just to survive.
My grandfather left behind a wife and son when he joined up. I am glad he made it back because my mother was born the year after his tour of duty ended. He was a good man who loved God, his family and his country. I was always proud of my grandfather—he didn’t have to serve, but he did, and he had to go out of his way to do so. He died ten years ago from prostate cancer.
Grandpa, this Memorial Day, I pay tribute tp you with this written memorial and a lot of fond memories. Thank you for the heritage you gave me.
LaDonna Ryggs is the Managing Editor of www.palladianview.com, a digital magazine for conservative Republican women.