My Green-Eyed Perspective by Jan Sperry Astani
My husband and I have thankfully gotten back in our weekly routine of a Monday lunch date. Today, as we shared a jalapeno burger combo and a cup of chili at Braum’s, my attention wandered to an older couple who sat down nearby to share a banana split. She got to the table first. A man I assumed to be her husband followed a bit later, stooped over and walking ever so slowly. But what really caught my attention was the “Korean War Veteran” hat he proudly wore on top of his silvered head. Today, he and his sweetheart were spending Veterans’ Day 2013 by indulging in one life’s sweetest, simplest pleasures – a delicious banana split.
This man, who valiantly served our country during a much simpler time some 60 years ago, reminded me of my dad.
My 80-year-old father, William Franklin Sperry, is also a Korean War veteran. He proudly served in the Navy from 1952 – 1956. Back then, young men were required to enlist within six months of turning 18 or be drafted. He chose the Navy because he thought it was the safest of all the military branches. Serving in the Army might mean front line action, which could result in death. He believed the Navy was the safest option and least likely of all branches to see combat.
Billy, as my father was known in his youth, was a small town Missouri lad who had never traveled farther than 150 miles from the farm where he grew up. From a boy who trapped rabbits in his youth to earn money, he arrived at the Coronado Island Navy base in California as a mature, 19-year-old married man and father of one. His wife, Lois, and baby girl, Carol, soon followed. Lois had also never ventured far from her small Missouri town before heading out west with baby in tow. She was even younger than my father. They were two teenagers in love with the rest of their lives (and two future daughters) ahead of them.
My father’s four-year stint earned him a Yeoman 2nd Class designation, and his days were spent sorting incoming mail to send out to ships in the Pacific fleet. My father found his Navy career to be much easier than expected. It was a far cry from the manual labor he performed daily on his family farm while growing up. He was happier for the lighter work load.
Like a faithful husband, my father listened to my mom’s wishes and didn’t re-enlist in 1956. She was afraid that re-enlistment would take them even farther away from her family in Missouri or perhaps half-way around the world. Being a world traveler never crossed her mind.
My father can’t remember what his Navy salary was, but he does recall paying $16,500 for a new 1,100 square foot home in Independence, Missouri, using his VA loan eligibility in 1963. That was the home I grew up in – a home my parents finally sold in 2002. I still drive by it when I’m in town. Maybe one day I’ll knock on the door and ask to see my old bedroom and the garage where I played school and wrote math problems on the concrete walls.
On this Veterans’ Day 2013, my father recalls that the best thing about his time in the Navy was making it safely through his four years of service. He knows that God was watching over him.
My father’s bride of 58 years passed away in 2010. Because of his military service, my mom is buried in a beautiful, peaceful VA cemetery in Higginsville, Missouri. He will join her there someday.
Until then, I celebrate my father and his service to our country. I will send good vibrations my father’s way on this special day and ask God to continue to bless him.
That’s just what I did when I saw the couple at Braum’s today. They made me smile. And in my heart I said, “Thank you.”