November 10, 2017 — Today is the official celebration of Veterans Day because the actual date, Nov. 11, falls on a Saturday this year. Veterans Day remembers the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, when the Armistice to end WWI, “the war to end all wars”, was signed and hostilities ended. We know that many of our Topretirements members are veterans, and that virtually everyone has a relative who served to defend our wonderful country. We are in debt to you, and especially those killed in action and their families; your sacrifices have made our freedom possible.
The timing this year is propitious, as I just came into possession of my father’s WWII dog tags (pictured). My dad, like so many of our baby boomer fathers, served in this world changing war. A newly minted dentist, he volunteered in the US Public Health Service and Coast Guard as the war broke out. According to the legend my father, who didn’t clear 5’5”, had to hang from a bar so he was tall enough to get his naval commission. His first assignment was to British Columbia in Canada, where he provided dental services for the workers building the Alaskan (Alcan) Highway, that amazing project to shore up the defenses of vulnerable Alaska. Following that he was assigned to the USS Cambria, a support ship in the Pacific that supported allied naval forces in the battles of Luzon, Guadalcanal, Leyte, and more. I recently read the shipboard diary that he wrote for my mother, who was back home in Oklahoma raising my two infant sisters. The diary describes how in the aftermath of a big battle everyone was pressed into service trying to save the wounded, no matter what their specialty. In between battles there was boredom, card playing, camaraderie, and sheer terror as kamikazes tried to sink his ship. It was clear that while dad was trying to help accomplish the big picture, he also longed to get home and see his wife and babies, one of whom was born while he was at sea.
About that dog tag
US Navy, Marine, and Coast Guard dog tags differed from those used in the Army. For one, they were round, not rectangular. Originally made of an alloy, as the war progressed and shortages occurred, they were often made of brass or stainless steel. Dad’s appears to be stainless steel. The convention for what went on a dog tag was somewhat flexible, but contains some interesting information.
Name: Francis Joseph Brady
Rank (in dad’s case, Dental Surgeon instead. The PA must have meant he was from Pennsylvania)
Serial number: (not shown for officers, he was a Lieutenant)
Blood type: O
Date of last tetanus shot: T11/43
Religion: Should have been C, Catholic, but for some reason his didn’t have it.
Branch of Service: Dad was both in the US Public Health service and the US Coast Guard
Like a lot of boomers, I was in the Army in the Vietnam era. I ended up serving there for 13 months as a US Army Signal Corps Lieutenant. To be truthful, I thought at the time that war was a bad idea, and am even more convinced of that now. But I didn’t want to buck my country and so I ended up going. By comparison our world wars seemed like so much more noble causes. Unlike many of my contemporaries who had miserable, dangerous tours of duty in Southeast Asia, I led a charmed life. My favorite response when asked what I did in Vietnam is to tell them that i commanded an LSD. That always brings on a respectful silence, as it sounds impressive as no one is sure what that might be. Then I tell them that I commanded a Large Steel Desk (as the Adjutant for a Signal Battalion in Long Binh), and we all enjoy the laughter. Still, it was a rough period for me, being in the Army in an unpopular time. Fortunately my family’s support was a huge comfort. My experience was nothing like some of my childhood friends who were killed, as well the older officers and men I met who had had horrible experiences there, sometimes with wounds that seriously affected their lives.
How about you
if you would like to share a brief comment about your experience as a veteran (or a family member), this is your Forum. Feel free to use the Comments section below. And thanks for all you have done.