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My dad was a veteran of World War II and proud of it. He served on a submarine through two war patrols in the Pacific.
Did he talk about it? Not much. We’d get bits and pieces during dinner. He would frown at the dash of curry Mom put into her chicken broccoli casserole and say, “All that time on the sub made me sensitive to smell.” Or he’d give us a lesson in manners: “Just because I was in the Navy doesn’t mean I gave up saying please and thank you.” Or he’d remind us of some harrowing moment at the bottom of the Pacific: “When they were dropping depth charges around us, we could hear them fall. We were so quiet on the sub, we walked around in our socks and didn’t even whisper.”
It took me a long time to figure out what those war patrols meant to Dad. He often gave the prayer at the veterans’ memorial in our small town. He befriended the officers and crew of a modern sub. He’d get together with his old buddies across the U.S. And when he died last February, the few surviving veterans of the USS Parche brought a red-white-and-blue wreath to his memorial. More poignantly, they had a wreath delivered to the conning tower of his old sub, now on display at Pearl Harbor.
I can read historical accounts of what the Parche did during World War II, but I’m also piecing together what happened to Dad, a kid barely in his twenties, in those years. He came back from the war 30 pounds lighter and a lot jumpier, if my grandmother’s account in an old letter is to be believed. He never doubted for a moment that he’d done the right thing, no matter the psychic cost.
The dad we knew, when he’d put back on those 30 pounds (and then some!), was unapologetic about his trust in prayer. Before he complained about the curry at the dinner table, he prayed for us and with us. Honestly, comfortably, faithfully. Now I’m just putting it together. If you walked around in your socks in a boat at the bottom of the ocean, sweating bullets while an unseen enemy above was looking to destroy you, wouldn’t you pray?
Dad’s not around for any service at the veterans’ memorial this year, but I’ll do my best to pick up his prayer. Feel free to tell me about a veteran you’d like us to pray for. I’m only too glad to add them to my list. My prayers are ones of gratitude.