I looked at these two old keys in my hand. They belonged to Old Man Jack and the thought of Memorial Day instantly crossed my mind.
Two old keys to Memorial Day.
A year ago, I had written a blog about Memorial Day (“It” and Memorial Day).
At times, I feel the meaning of Memorial Day has either faded or has changed.
In essence, many people living in today’s “politically correct” society have taken the sacrifices of our fallen to mean a three day weekend.
Sad…but that’s how I feel.. and it angers me.
When I looked at those two keys, my mind raced to some of the things Old Man Jack said.
But mostly, to the things he could not say.
In the twelve years I was honored to know him, he would abruptly blurt out something once in a while when we were talking in his garage… while sitting in the blue wheelchair that belonged to his wife.
There was no story associated with these mutterings.
“Boys got killed on those stinkin’ islands…” then raise his thick, white eyebrows.
Or, “Hell, I pissed in my pants.”
Or once in a while, he would make a muffled smack with his lips then slowly shake his head left and right… and not say anything more.
One such utterance was mentioned in “Old Man Jack’s Love”.
Upon gazing upon his beloved Corsair in front of him after over 60 years, he began weeping.
After recovering and meandering next to his plane, he simply let out, “Some of (the pilots) just didn’t come back. I could never stop thinking, ‘Did a Jap get him… or was it me?’”
He said that because as Ground Crew Chief, he was responsible for the airworthiness of the plane a young Navy or Marine pilot would take out on a mission…to shoot at the enemy…or be shot at. These planes had to be in the best fighting condition as lives depended on it. But he frequently said “they had to make do” because they never had enough spare parts… so they HAD to improvise.
One time, he said a bushing had been shot out on a plane that had to go on a mission the next morning. Old Man Jack did what he could. What he must. He soaked two pieces of coconut logs in engine oil overnight. When it came time for the pilot to take off, he clamped the oil soaked wood around the cabling and used baling wire to clamp them together as tightly as he could. The plane left on its mission – with the young pilot behind the stick…in a plane with oil soaked coconut log as a bushing.
Now perhaps you understand the depth of his utterance of, “…or was it me?”
I will never have an answer because the question could never have been asked of him.
But I feel Old Man Jack carried tremendous guilt in his heart about something that happened on those stinkin’ islands.
Not just bad; real bad.
Deep down, my heart tugs at me that someone within Old Man Jack’s reach died that shouldn’t have… and that Old Man Jack feels personally responsible for his death… and he carried that anguish for all these years.
As Old Man Jack said, some of the young pilots didn’t come back.
They were killed or are forever missing in action.
That is for whom Memorial Day is all about.
To remember and honor those that did not come back…and not a Memorial Day sale.
Two old keys to Memorial Day…