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Mom, Dad and Memorial Day

Dr. Ray Pritchard
Dr. Ray Pritchard

In May 1941 my father was assigned to Camp Shelby in MS. His older brother, a medical doctor, advised him to enlist and volunteer for the war that was about to engulf the world. Because Dad had some medical training, the Army assigned him to a medical unit in Nome, Alaska. Back then there was great fear that the Japanese might attack through the Aleutians, which they in fact did.

At the same time a pert, petite young nurse from Iowa joined up and was sent to Alaska. Now it wouldn’t seem likely that a farm boy from Mississippi would meet a pretty young nurse from Iowa, but in war that sort of thing happened all the time.

Mom had a great Army career, about which I know only two facts. First, she managed to outrank my father, a fact that makes me smile 70 years later. Second, she won some sort of beauty contest. The only wartime pic i have seen shows a beautiful young woman in uniform w a mysterious smile on her face. The inscription on the back reads, “Somewhere in the Aleutians 1943.”

Somehow the man from Mississippi serving in Nome, Alaska met the pretty girl from Iowa serving in the Aleutians.

During World War II they served their country like millions of others scattered around the world.

I don’t know how they met or who made the first move. But I know it gets cold in Alaska in the winter so maybe they huddled together to keep warm.

Obviously they made it home and got married or I wouldn’t be writing these words.

Dad died in 1974, Mom in 2003. On this Memorial Day I here record my gratitude to them for serving their country so long ago. And I join with Americans everywhere in saying, “Thank you,” to those who served in war and in peace and to those who serve today on the front lines of freedom around the world. Finally, I offer solemn thanks to those who gave the last full measure of their devotion. Eternal be their memory.

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Originally published May 27, 2013.

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