Octo Observations: Heartfelt Homage to Our Veterans

November 11 is Veteran’s Day. In many areas of our country this is a day of remembrance and honor. Here at Cedarfield Retirement facility where my husband and I live,  there is a special ceremony marking this patriotic occasion.

Last Friday we received a booklet naming all the residents who have served in various branches of the military. My husband’s name is one. Our community represents those who served in WWII, Korea, Vietnam and on military bases in the USA. A reminder that our generation was included in the mandatory conscription policy that ended after Viet Nam. As I recall, young men were proud to serve, and some of our favorite friends earned Purple Stars, Bronze Stars and assorted medals. 

Our oldest couple is now 102: bright, alert and full of life.  Each was a student at UVA when World War II broke out. They  were determined to serve their country…hence they immediately enrolled in the service. They served with distinction for several years. 

Mrs. G. was a Lieutenant in the U.S. Navy. She attended Midshipman’s school in Northampton, Massachusetts in the first class of WAVE  Officer Training and graduated as an Ensign. Ordered to Washington, D.C. she worked in the Office of Naval Operations specializing in Communications as a (highly classified) coder. Her soon-to-be husband was also a Lieutenant in the Navy and served as Chief of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation in Philadelphia, PA. A truly remarkable twosome, and I believe the oldest living married couple of Cedarfield. How proud we are to know and enjoy them!

As I checked out of Publix grocery store yesterday, I noticed two prominent magazines dedicated to Pearl Harbor. Expensive though each magazine was, I could not resist. Our generation was born before or shortly after the Japanese attack that precipitated America’s entering the War. 

While John remembers that day, I do not, as I was still a toddler. (Love to rub it in that on December 7, 1941 he was six years old, AND so much older than I.) We both want all our grandchildren to be cognizant of history, which in many school books these days is being minimized. As the old saying goes, “If we don’t learn from the past, history will repeat itself.” And it is up to our generation to assure that events like the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Holocaust are not lost over time.

One of our very sharp neighbors who is well into his nineties and a practicing judge spent three years in Washington, D.C as a Senate page. Quite an honor. He clearly remembers the address by President Roosevelt shortly after 12-7-41 announcing that America was at War. Standing somberly in the Senate chambers,  our then teenage friend saw and heard the President’s speech which convinced him that he would one day be a lawyer and a judge. From 1944 to 1951 he served in the Navy in several assignments, including Pearl Harbor. And as if that were not sufficient, he stayed in the Reserves until age 60.  

These are just a few examples of the veterans that we will honor on November 11. I am proud to be the wife of a USAF first Lieutenant whose tour of duty took us to Edwards Air Force Base in California and Salina, Kansas after the Berlin Wall was built. Our second baby girl was born at Edwards, and being a military family, the cost of Susie’s delivery and our five day stay in the base hospital was $7.50!   And, check this…. a large loaf of Wonder bread cost 19 cents at the Base Exchange!

Life on a military base is a unique and bonding experience. In California we lived in an area where all the houses were basically cookie-cutter design. To our delight, we had fenced in back yards suitable for swing sets and sand boxes. We also had sprinkler systems which were a luxury to all of us. Wonderful, supportive people from all over the USA were stationed at Edwards.  We made many friends, and looked after each other.

When Sue and Frank Borman moved to Kelly Court, our street, I was asked to be a “Big Sister” to Sue. Her husband was a test pilot and a Major, which meant he was older and outranked John. Sue was a lovely, selfless person whose raison d’etre was her husband’s well-being, his career and their two sons. Frank was destined to become an early astronaut, although we did not realize it at the time….and, as most of you will remember, he traveled to the moon! 

As a West Point graduate and aeronautical engineer he flew on Gemini 7 and Apollo 8.  Following his superb USAF career, Frank became President of Eastern Airlines. Frank is still alive at age 93, although his beloved wife Sue died on September 7, 2021 after a long battle with Alzheimer’s Disease. I will never forget her elegance or her thoughtfulness in hosting a surprise baby shower for me on May 4, 1961. I was so awed and excited that Susie roared into the world that very evening, hardly before the doctor had time to stop playing cards with John and prepare for delivery!!

Today’s climate is very different for our younger generations, many of whom have not served our country.  Instead young people have chosen other paths. Susie’s husband is the only one in our family who joined the Marines after high school, served four years, received a G.I. bill which helped him complete his college degree. In addition he and Susie worked to fill the tuition gap…a long haul, but well worth their efforts.

From an Octo perspective, there are indelible lessons learned  in the military. Not only is our patriotism and allegiance to our American way unflappable, but our belief in the preservation of democracy is unwavering. I am riveted by the TV commercials depicting Wounded Warriors, and those young men and women who served valiantly, now struggling to lead a productive and normal life, as they deal with their afflictions. It always gives me a lump in my throat when I see    a young man or woman, minus a limb, participating in athletic endeavors, smiling while praising their families and the United States of America. Such courage and determination. 

Character is nurtured in several different ways. Much of it is implanted in children by their parents, teachers and closest family members. Sometimes hardships and challenges provide the impetus for a person to gain strength, to overcome obstacles and tap into their own inner resources.  In my opinion we cannot live successfully without having core values. Giving children limits, love and understanding undergirded by consistency is tantamount.

Serving in the military is a significant way to learn obedience, teamwork and respect. It is not the only  path to patriotism and good character, but it is a good one. So as our country wrestles with difficult problems, let’s each take time on November 11 to say a silent prayer of thanks to all those thousands of brave men and women who have served our beloved country.

“A true hero isn’t measured by the size of his strength, but by the strength of his heart….”

“America without her soldiers is like God without His angels.” 

                    GOD BLESS AMERICA…Now and Always!    

Joy Nevin is the author of Joy of Retirement – Live, Love, and Learn. Click to buy on Amazon.                                                      

About Joy Nevin (75 Articles)
Joy Nevin was born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio. She graduated from Hathaway Brown School in Shaker Heights, attended Connecticut College for Women for two years until she married John Nevin in 1957. Four children later, with twelve corporate moves in 20 years, the family learned flexibility. In 1990, with a nearly empty nest, Joy and John moved to Richmond, Virginia where they put down roots. Now in her eighties, Joy is the author of “Get Moving: A Joyful Search to Meet and Embrace Life Transitions” (2002) and “Joy of Retirement: Live, Love and Learn” (2015). Since 2016 she has written numerous articles for Woman Around Town on downsizing, moving to a retirement facility and her current series, Octo Observations. She is also a proud Grammy of nine, great grandmother of two…..AND forever grateful to Charlene Giannetti for supporting her passion for writing!