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Memorial Day Has Special Meaning To Me – by Debbie Ray

Dad picIt’s hard to think about the sacrifices that others have made when we are planning our Memorial Day get-togethers and getaways, but please take a moment to remember why so many of us get that three-day weekend. Memorial Day is set aside to honor those who died in all of America’s wars. It took on a more special meaning to me when I learned that my middle brother and I wouldn’t be here if not for a man who did exactly that on April 29, 1945.

You see, my father joined the Navy the year after Pearl Harbor was bombed. Like thousands of brave young men of the time, he left his bride and their baby son because he wanted to serve and defend his country. He became a Machinist’s Mate aboard the USS Haggard, a destroyer.  At sea in the Pacific, in support of the Okinawa operation, they were hit by a kamikaze.  It struck the engine room. My father had literally just climbed up the ladder and was blown sideways upon impact, but suffered ‘only’ broken ribs.  The man who had just taken over for him and fourteen others were killed when the bomb carried by the kamikaze exploded in the engine room. My father never spoke of it, until I had the honor of escorting him to a reunion of his shipmates, where I heard the story told by the men who lived through it.

God bless them all, the living and the dead. To learn more about Memorial Day and why we commemorate this day, visit the World War II Museum in New Orleans or read about it at mymemorialday.org.


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