I don’t know why this particular Veterans Day has brought back a flood of childhood memories, but it has. So I’m going to wander away from my usual “writer-themed” posts for this one and just share some “snapshots.” Hope you don’t mind.
|Front row (l-r) Uncle Gene Chandler, Uncle Sammy Chandler.
Back row (l-r) Willie Chandler (daddy) and Uncle Jimmy Chandler
Yes, my dad was a WWII veteran. Navy. I mean, seriously, were there even other branches of the military? Not in the Chandler family – unless you were my dad’s brother, Sammy. See, my dad and Uncle Sammy had these uncles that were about the same age as they were (sometimes happens in a big family). My dad and his “uncles” all joined the Navy to fight in WWII. Uncle Sammy joined the Army. Even my mom’s brothers were Navy men. But noooo…Uncle Sammy joined the Army. I never told daddy this because it would of been kind of blasphemous but later on, during the re-telling of their war stories, I kind of admired Uncle Sammy for doing his own thing. Regardless of the teasing his brother and uncles gave him.
I asked daddy once when I was a kid if he was ever in any hand-to-hand combat during the war. Yes. He hand-fought the Germans. Or maybe it was the Japanese? It’s hard to remember now. Either I’ve forgotten what he said, or it changed from story to story. Years later, as an adult, I asked him the same question. He smiled that crooked grin (anyone who knew my daddy knows that grin) and paused a moment as if he were gauging my ability to handle the answer. The truth. “If you call a fight in a bar in New Orleans hand-to-hand combat, then yeah. I saw hand-to-hand combat in the war,” he said. Whether he fought a German or a Japanese, or another drunken sailor, he was still my hero. That memory makes me smile.
My mom used to tell a story of daddy and his blond curls. My dad was a very good looking man with a head full of loose blond curls. Mom and dad were dating at the time and had a lunch date. Mom was giddy happy that she was going to get to “show off her man” to her co-workers that day and made certain to tell him to wear his sailor uniform. But daddy made a stop before picking mom up – the barber shop. He didn’t do it on purpose. He had no idea he was the object/subject of such discussion. Mom was horrified when he showed up at the office with all those gorgeous curls cut off. But she married him anyway, with or without hair.
March 2013 will be the 15th anniversary of their deaths. They died twelve days apart. I’d give anything to hear one of their stories again. No matter how many times I’ve heard it before.
My daddy and me, Nashville TN, 1972 maybe? Always was, always will be…a daddy’s girl.