War leaves young men with the horror of death following them around even after the war has been fought. At night the macabre notions hurt the worst. It changes young men who are suppose to be raising families into killers. Military training includes instilling virtues that teach soldiers to mentally prepare themselves for the tragedy that war really is but there is always a resonating fear that battle creates in a soldiers mind.
My grandfather, on my father’s side, fought in World War II. Pops, who passed away a little over a year ago, would stand on the deck of his aircraft carrier, the U.S.S. San Jacinto, and watch as adult men flew planes into the sides of ships. He would watch men practicing suicide missions that killed his fellow sailors.
Can you imagine it? Looking out an ocean with no land in sight and constantly thinking every plane is a kamikaze out to slam into the side of you and blow up your ship? Imagine watching it. Imagine watching men kill themselves all the while having a name which meant divine wind. Try to wrap yourself around that concept. What could have been going through his mind seeing ships on both starboard and port sides going down from submarine torpedoes?
Towards the end of his life I could see it. Pops, after a meal, would walk outside and gaze around himself in a stoic half-frozen manner. All the while taking slow drags off of his ciggarette. His gaze almost screamed to say he half expected something to come out of nowhere with the sole intent of sending him to his grave. It was his look of defiance in the face of death. His bravery to want to look at death in the face. It was part of him and the routine which he developed in the Philippines, around Guam, stuck to him like a magnet. Marring his soul to the core.
Pops was an electrician and a man who could fix anything whether given the proper tool or not. With five children he did his best to provide for my father who excelled under my grandfather’s guidance and adherence to strict rules. Pops was not a man of many words so when he did speak, he meant it. Rest assured he thought before he said what he had to say. Pops, my grandfather, taught my father to be a baseball player and raised wonderful, intelligent and caringly dutiful children.
When Pops was buried he was laid to rest in a quaint service all members of the Navy recieve. While Taps played in the background a member of the Navy handed my grandmother a folded flag. The Private thanked my grandmother for the service my grandfather provided to the United States. Then at the end we all layed yellow roses on top of the coffin; my grandfather’s favorite colored flower.
I remember looking down at his coffin as it laid in the hole. Hearing the bugle in the background made the moment surreal. A man who I knew all my life was laid to rest. I had no tears. I hardly could believe he was gone. The fact he survived the war was the reason I existed. If he had been killed at sea, I would not be here.