Monday, November 12, 2012

Veteran's Day

As the daughter of a WWII Veteran, believe it or not, the war in many ways shaped my life. My late father, Leonard Wojtowicz, enlisted as a very young man on his 17th birthday in November of 1942. The war commenced on September 1, 1939 and ended on September 2, 1945, which meant he decided to fight for his country in the heat of battle by joining the Navy and sailing to Europe.

Several years earlier, my paternal grandfather was killed by a drunk driver as he walked to work for the railroad. He was an immigrant from Poland, who spoke little if any English, and was a devote Catholic, thereby explaining my father being one of twelve children. As the oldest boy at home when my grandfather was killed, my father dropped out of Parochial School in the eighth grade to bring home money for my grandmother to be able to feed the younger children. Mature beyond his years, standing up for his beliefs, and fighting for his country was not a surprise to any of his family or friends.

As a member of the “Silent Generation,” my father only spoke of the good times he experienced as he sailed around the world, but what he did not speak about were the photos he had taken of Navy ships off the bow of his own ship being torpedoed and sunk with all the sailors onboard in the English Channel. He did not speak about the German soldiers he photographed lined up on the dock in France, then walking up the plank onto the Navy ship, and later photographed on deck as prisoners of war.

My father was a communications specialist, and it was only a few days before he died of a heart attack at the age of 69 that he shared with my brother, who also served in the Navy, details about the events he held so close..and the fact that he heard the sounds in his mind every day. Because of all that my father endured, he treasured life. He loved his family with his whole being. And, he never hesitated thank God for the life he shared with those that he loved.

I am the product of a mother and father who remembered the affects of the Great Depression, who grew up too fast because of WWII, and then married and found themselves separated again by the Korean War, where my father lived in on an island interpreting code. Eventually, they raised six children of their own, and I am the youngest. I am convinced that my father chose to live his life with honor, integrity, and faith because of the horrors he experienced. He was an amazing man that people instinctively entrusted with their happiest moments and deepest sorrows. I am honored to be his daughter and miss him with all my heart!

For those of you who have not lost your father, don’t ever hesitate to say “I love you.” Those are the last three words I said to my father when he left my home almost 18 years ago, for which I am eternally grateful. And, don’t ever hesitate to say “Thank you” to a veteran, as they are the reason we live in the greatest country in the world!

With love and appreciation,

Sarah Bazey
Mrs. International 2012

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