Dan and DadIt was February 11, 1942.  A young man packed his bags for a trip from his home in Bremerton, WA for the Naval Recruiting Station in Seattle.  He had just turned 17 years old the day before.  That was the minimum age required to sign up for the Navy.  He had that date circled on his calendar since the previous December 7th.  His mother, who along with his father would have to sign off on his decision because he was a minor, told him he would stay and celebrate his birthday at home before he left.  A different set of orders to be obeyed.

My father ended up quitting school his junior year to do what many other young men did.  Go defend their country by joining the military and going to war.  In Dad’s mind, this wouldn’t take long. We were the United States of America.  He would be home soon.  Youthful exuberance, but no lack of courage.

My grandmother was certain she would never see her two oldest sons return from the war.  She ended up being wrong.  Both my Uncle Max and Dad spent the remainder of the war serving the Navy and the country.  Ironically, the son she did lose was Dad’s younger brother who died from pneumonia while he was gone.

Dad served 30 years in the Navy.  The good news for me was that during part of that time, he was stationed in Bogota, Colombia where he met and married my mom.

This is what Memorial Day is all about.

Funny, that as a kid growing up in the 1970’s and early 80’s, the same type of reverence for the military wasn’t there.  I was on the back end of an unpopular war in Vietnam.  Even though I grew up in a Navy town, the thought of serving my country never intrigued me.  That was for other people.  Not for me, or people I hung out with.  Turns out many of my friends ended up with fine careers in the military and still serve today.

Dad grew up during the Depression and because of the 40-year age difference; we were almost two generations different.  My hair was long, my music loud, and my taste in clothes awful (on that he was right).  I really didn’t come to respect what he and his generation, as well as earlier generations, did.

This is what Memorial Day is all about.

For the past decade, Dad has been a detective.  Genealogy is a passion for him.  He has researched our family back hundreds of years.  In fact, between him and my brother, they found we actually were able to join an elite group called the Sons of the American Revolution (SAR).  My great-great-great-great-great Grandfather, James McClelland was in the Pennsylvania militia during the Revolutionary War.  Because of the direct line of grandfathers down, this made us eligible for the SAR.  Dad did all the hard work in researching and completing the rigorous application to join.  All I had to do was prove he was my father (which he provided me the documentation) and write a check.  As has been the case most of my life, Dad made it easy for me.  Seems to have run in the family dating back 230 years.

This is what Memorial Day is all about.

Dad’s grandfather John Finis Weedin was a Seattle police officer in the early part of the turn of the 20th century.  We often forget that law enforcement is just as dangerous a job.  Even though it doesn’t involve shipping out to foreign lands, it still means protecting American citizens and keeping our country safe.  My great-grandfather served many years on the police force until DATE when he was killed in a gun battle in Seattle.  He was honored by the city with a street name, Weedin Place NE, in North Seattle.  My oldest daughter Mindy did a report on him for school and we took a picture by the sign.  My wife has not allowed me to go back and “borrow” the sign.  She thinks it might end me up in the opposite end of the law that Great-Granddad.  Of course she’s right, but I really want it!

This is what Memorial Day is all about.

One final thought on someone who I’m not related to but still consider a hero.  As my year as Rotary president draws to a close, the guy replacing me got in under somewhat humorous circumstances.  We voted him in as President-Elect when he wasn’t even at the meeting!  Remember, this is Rotary, not the President of the United States.  Not many candidates dueling with each other to get in.

Turns out my pal Roger Ludwig, had already volunteered for the job.  He just couldn’t be there to be voted on because he was in Iraq.  Roger is a local physician who also is a pilot in the National Guard.  He was dispatched to Iraq for many months as part of the duty he signed up for.  He left his practice, his wife, his two children, and his Rotary Club to serve his nation.  Now what’s his reward?  A bunch of unruly Rotarians every Friday morning!

What Memorial Day is all about are brave men and women who volunteered to put themselves in harm’s way for a greater good.  Democracy, patriotism, and security of our people are among those reasons.  I never had the guts to do it.  The bravest thing I’ve probably done is coach high school girls basketball!  I’m awfully glad there have been others who have – James McClelland, John Finis Weedin, Roger Ludwig, and Dad.

Those are some of my heroes.  Undoubtedly, you have stories just like mine.  That’s what makes our country so great.  It’s that we have, and do, have people bravely step up and protect our freedom.  Now is the time for me to say “thank you.”

This is what Memorial Day is all about.

Dan

(c) 2009 Dan Weedin – All Rights Reserved

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