It’s Veteran’s Day and I want to thank all the Veterans for their service to our country, protecting our freedom- the privileges we have that other countries do not. But, today, I want to talk about one veteran- my dad.
My dad- Daniel Paul Walker, Jr. enlisted in the Navy when World War II broke out. He wanted to be able to choose his branch of service rather than being drafted into one. Daddy was a Yeoman,1st Class. He never talked about the war and I never knew why until I was in my twenties. I can’t blame him. Whenever I asked him what a Yeoman did, he would say, “Book keeping, inventory, things like that.” The part he never told was that he was the one who had to identify the many bodies on the ship , toe tag them and arrange to have the families told. How horrible it must have been for him.
“Your daddy was never the same when he came back from the war, ” my aunt Aline told me once. She didn’t go into detail and since Daddy didn’t talk about it and neither did my mother, I had no idea what happened during the war. Oh, you know, I read about it in history- read The Diary of Ann Frank , watched movies and such. But, the reality of identifying bodies and having his best friend blown up beside him- well, that never crossed my mind. I just didn’t know.
When my dad came back from the war, he had, by today’s standards- Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). But, in 1945, there was no such thing as PTSD. He thought he was being spied on, thought the Nazi’s were out to get him, was still in a wartime mentality. He was diagnosed paranoid -schizophrenic. I understand why now.
I remember when I was in private first grade (I was too young to go to regular school ), my dad went to “the hospital”. He was there six weeks. He made my sister and I a leather purse- a coin purse of sorts in his crafts class. Like art therapy, I guess. It was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen- and he made it with his own hands. It was a favorite thing of mine and i used it until it was threadbare. I missed him terribly while he was gone. Being only 5, I just didn’t understand why he was there.
I was told much later- about when I was 21 that he had been put on medication, but the meds didn’t really work , so he was given shock treatments. He was given sodium pentathol (truth serum) to put him to sleep and then monstrously shocked until he convulsed and his brain had enough electricity to handle the atrocities of war. His once sharp memory for phone numbers and names began to dissipate and he couldn’t remember anymore.
I knew he went to the doctor every six weeks, but I didn’t know why. Every six weeks he had to endure this until, bedridden with emphysema, he was allowed to stop. He died three years later.
So, for my dad-he didn’t die in World War II- but he gave his life. Thank you Daddy. I love you