Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Wooden Ships and Iron Men

December 8, 1941 - a date in family infamy.

My grandfather Adam James Greer enlisted in the US Navy during World War I, in 1917. He served on several ships, among them the Druid, a harbor defense ship. Converted from a civilian yacht, she served in the Atlantic until Armistice Day, when she returned to civilian ownership. Who can say what grand and glorious adventures she witnessed. His uniform, hanging safely in my closet, makes him about 5'4" and maybe a buck twenty. Maybe.

The day after the Pearl Harbor attack, he arrived bright and early at a recruiting station (possibly the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard) to reenlist, but was turned away due to his age. He was forty-one years old.

My late father remembered the aftermath as the only time he'd ever seen his dad, a hard-drinking Irishman, drunk. "I was in this man's Navy when there were wooden ships and iron men!" he bellowed. Later, as an employee (a foreman, for some of the time) of a defense contractor he served by making the things needed for his sons (David - USMC, and oldest Jim - an Army tanker) to fight. He was issued a pistol for self defense (now residing in my gun safe).

I remember him as an old man, with impressive girth and white hair. Once - he was a sailorman, a patriot and a hero. Thank God for him, and all of the others who stepped forward, seventy years ago, and offered themselves to the grim task of defeating the world's bullies. Forever in their debt, I pray that we may live honest lives, raise loving children and be worthy of the memory of those men and women.

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