Thursday, April 8, 2010

The Sailor

I received a call this morning from a lady who is going to interview my father for his service in WW2 and place the interview in the archives in Washington DC for access later from someone who might want to find out first hand from the people who had actually been there. She asked me if there were any stories that I remembered regarding his time that he might have shared with me. It brought back a memory of a story that I had written about him. The time of writing the story was shortly after the 9/11 attacks. I looked up the story and sent it to her but it made me think that others might want to read it also so I am posting it here as I often do for some of those stories that I have previously written. I submit it in it's entirety:

The Sailor

The morning was warm, the sky was clear and I can almost imagine the birds chirping in the trees as the young sailors mustered for their march to the pier at Mare Island in California that day. The young men were waiting to find out what ship they would be assigned to and fighting on in the monumental battle with the Japanese in World War II.

A young soldier from Central Oregon was in the group. He knew well of the two cruisers that were waiting in the dry docks for the crews that were being assembled. He had first seen them in his Blue Jackets manual in boot camp. He had wanted to be on one of them (the USS Portland) ever since that first day that he had laid eyes on them. Feeling that if must have been named after Portland Oregon, he felt that it would make him feel more at home.

As the Boatswain Mate marched them to where they would be chosen, he whispered over and over, “Please put me on the Portland!”. He wasn’t aware of whether or not he was being heard and found himself right in the middle of the formation as it assembled on the pier. Only one sailor stood between him and the line of separation that was drawn between what became two groups.

I can almost imagine him holding his breath and the sigh that came forward as he discovered that his side was to go on the Portland. He joined the Portland and was involved in many battles from the Aleutians to the Philippians to Okinawa. The ship served its country bravely during those campaigns. But the real story of the war was to be the other ship, The USS Indianapolis.

The Indianapolis was the ship that delivered the bomb that was to stop the war. In secrecy, the US sent the Indi with its precious cargo and after it had delivered its package, sent it back alone to return to the fleet. On it’s way; the Indi was sunk by a Japanese sub. Of the 1200 sailors on board, 800 survived the sinking and only 300 survived the sharks that picked them apart one by one in the warm ocean waters.

Now this story has special meaning to me because that young man was my father and even if he had survived the sinking, he could not swim. So, it is easy to say, that one sailor stood between him and certain death. And with that death, I would never have been born.

That story has also taken on extra meaning in the light of our recent events. Stories pour out of New York of people that were in the right place and others who were in the wrong. We struggle with how bad things can happen to some and not to others. We all realize as it strikes closer to home that evil and bad things can happen to any of us at any time.

We have been comfortable so long that we feel that it can not happen to us and when it does comes close to us, it shakes our very foundations and we realize that nothing that we have or nothing that we own is safe except one thing. And that one thing is God’s love. In Romans, the Bible states:
For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus, our Lord.

The days ahead are loaded with much uncertainty and at the same time, great opportunity. It is up to us to choose how we will react to both. May God’s peace be with you all.

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