Patsy Porco

On Veterans … One in Specific

In Humor, Veteran's Day on November 11, 2015 at 4:44 pm

Veteran's Day photo

A number of years ago, when she was still alive, a neighbor, Assunta, told me something about Veteran’s Day. She was very old even back then, having been born three years before World War I started. It was during a visit to her house that she mentioned Veteran’s Day, in the middle of a very long monologue during which my attention went in and out. Whenever I visited her, she talked and I listened, or prayed that she would stop talking. That isn’t very charitable, so I don’t expect any credit in Heaven for those visits, but the facts are the facts.

Anyway, somehow Veteran’s Day came up, and she said that, as a child, she learned that “On the eleventh hour and eleventh minute of the eleventh day of the eleventh month,” people were supposed to do something. Probably say a prayer, or remember or think about the war or the men who fought in it. I think I stopped listening after the dramatic, “On the eleventh hour and eleventh minute …” recitation. That was interesting to me.

As I write this, at the fifteenth hour and fifty-sixth minute of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, I realize that I missed my chance today to do something at that exact time. However, I can still think about the veterans, of all wars, for the rest of the day. There are plenty of men and women who are fighting for our freedom right now, or are fighting personal battles and demons that resulted from their defense of our country. They probably aren’t going to care when I think about and pray for them (or whatever I’m supposed to be doing). In fact, screw the rules; I’m going to think of them any time I damn well please.

Which brings me to a funny story. It’s a third-hand story from my sister, Veronica, who heard it from my father, a veteran of the Korean War. When I was growing up, my father didn’t share many stories of his past with his kids. All that I knew about him was that he was engaged to Miss Rheingold,* a beauty queen for a beer company, before he married my mother. I also knew that he worked as a salesman for Pennzoil.

My father’s reticence ended, however, in the year before he died. In fact, he became a little manic about telling all of his stories. Veronica lived at home at the time so she was often his audience of one. She heard riotous stories from him, which came as a shock to me because I had always considered my father to be a stalwart, disciplined man who “brooked no nonsense,” as they said back in the day (not my day, or even his, actually. I’m currently reading historical fiction set in the 1700s and have picked up a few new, but dated, expressions).

In any event, one of the stories that he told Veronica left me speechless (unlike Assunta). She said that my father, who was a sergeant stationed in Germany** during the Korean War, was initially placed in the radio unit. His job was to send locations, via code, to troops. He must have been thrown on the job without any training because, on one occasion, he dutifully tapped out the code of the site where some troops were expected, but he got the code wrong and they all wound up at the wrong place. According to Veronica, my father found this story to be hilarious. It was a very funny story, since his actions didn’t result in anyone dying, but I was mystified. My father was not one to appreciate half-assed work; in fact, if you were the half-assed worker, you’d probably wind up with half an ass to sit on. His favorite saying was, “Anything worth doing is worth doing well,” and he said it all the time. Maybe that’s why he kept this story, and a wealth of other very funny ones involving his questionable behavior, to himself.

I wish he had shared this part of himself earlier. But at least he eventually did. I love you, Dad. Happy Veteran’s Day to you and to all of the veterans of all of the wars that were fought to preserve our lives, liberty, and pursuit of happiness.

I think my father was duped. I looked up the names of all of the Miss Rheingolds and there was nobody named Joan on the list. Maybe she was a contestant. Maybe. (http://missrheingold.com/history/)

** I never understood why he was in Germany, when the war was being fought in Korea. Maybe he was teaching a radio code class.

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