Two years ago I wrote a tribute to my father, and my uncle, both marines in World War II. I share it again here, proudly, in memoriam.
“I watched Saving Private Ryan again recently. I will never forget the last scene in the French Cemetery as an aging Private Ryan, with his family in the background, recalled the words of the Lieutenant who said to him just before he died, “Earn it.”
My father was a marine in Hawaii preparing for the attack on Japan when the Japanese surrendered and World II ended. His brother, and my uncle Veral, whose name I bear, was taken captive at Corregidor and survived the Bataan death march. He spent the entire war in Japanese prison camps and weighed less than a hundred pounds when he was liberated. He died early in life, leaving a wife and one son to live on without him.
My father, who died on October 14th this year, would have been 90 years old next April. He told me late in his life what my uncle Veral endured in those prison camps and which he did not even share with his family. I cannot tell it here.
I remember when my father and Uncle Veral came home from the war, woke me up and asked me which one was my Dad. They were both in their marine uniforms. I was only three. I pointed to my uncle and the story was told gleefully throughtout the family for many years.
My father went to work in the lumber mills in Marcola, Oregon after returning from the war and my Uncle Veral went to the University of Oregon on the G.I. bill. All they really wanted was to work hard, provide for their families, and make life better for us than they had it themselves. They succeeded.
Twenty years later, I joined the Navy during the Vietnam War and served two tours of duty in the Gulf of Tonkin onboard the USS Hancock, a WWII aircraft carrier. I will not soon forget the pilots we lost, and how quiet it got in the officer’s wardroom each time we were one short. I won’t soon forget how we all felt when Jane Fonda visited Hanoi.
Around the world there are gravestones, rows and rows of crosses of those who gave their lives for the cause of freedom, crosses that many in America want removed, in spite of the fact that underneath them are the remains of a mother’s son and a father’s sorrow. My father’ voice is still with me when I hear him say, “They’re pretty much forgotten son. Time passes and people forget what they did and the price they paid.” Duane Earl Crowe, 1919-2008.
I miss you Dad. You too Uncle Veral. I will try to ‘Earn it.'”
We ‘earn it’ by remembering on this day of memorial, the price that has been paid for our freedoms, and carrying out our duty to maintain them.