Memorial Day, Twice

P.B. (Pre-Blog): If you know me, you know I am a hippie-crunchy-pacifist who is mostly content to spend my days sitting around making daisy chains, singing gospel hymns, and hugging my enemies.  This quirky aspect of me in no way diminishes my gratitude to the servicemen and women who take on the burden of fighting battles away from family and friends, in indescribably harsh conditions.  Their value is immeasurable, their service is real, their danger is often imminent, their sacrifices run deep.


I am such a jerk.  I’m not fishing for compliments here.  I am an actual jerk who is actually thoughtlessly-jerky and it’s time you knew it.

Waaaaaay back in May, we celebrated Memorial Day.  (Technically, while the U.S. Memorial Day was aaaaaages ago, we only just celebrated Korea’s Memorial Day on June 6.  So I’m not really that far behind. Er, um, yeah.)

Since it was such a long time ago, allow me to jog your memory.

Memorial Day is the day we Americans barbecue and drink and don’t go to work and can’t mail packages cause the post office is closed.  Oooooooh, and it also happens to be the day we remember the service men and women who have fought for our country.  Remember that from eons ago?  Yeah, that’s the day I’m talking about here.

To celebrate, our family went to Mangsang Beach and “camped” (if you can call a posh trailer 10 yards from the beach with all the amenities “camping”) and generally had a wonderful time.

But let me draw you back to the I’m-a-jerk point.  (I need a synonym for jerk.  It’s getting repetitive and annoying.) I spent the whole gosh-darn 3-day weekend with my brother.  A veteran.  A man who lived through actual combat and has friends – good friends – who actually died in that war. And not once did I thank him.  Or give him an extra hug.  Or anything other than ask him to get me a beer from the cooler or to flip my chicken on the barbecue.

See?  Jerk. (I give up. Maybe said brother would like to throw out a few choice synonyms.)

As my penance, I’m going to spend a minute sharing some Memorial Day memories with you.

I’d like to introduce you to one of my own personal heroes.  Or maybe two of them.

This photo captures the exceedingly handsome William Spencer and his lovely bride Elizabeth Houghtaling on their wedding day.  That’s my grandma and grandpa, folks.  Ain’t they just the bees knees?

They met in when they were 5 and had a lifelong romance.  Here is a Valentine he gave her when they were 11 years old. This would have been around 1935 or so.

And here they are at some later date, but still looking pretty darn handsome and gorgeous.  Her skirt and blouse are making me think 1970s.

Grandpa Bill was a decorated Navy captain.  He served his whole career in the Navy, beginning with graduating the US Naval Academy, and then heading off to World War II.  Much later, he became the longest  running captain of a gargantuan ship called the Long Beach CGN-9, which I had the privilege of visiting when I was 9 or 10 years old.

He helped my grandma raise 6 incredible kids, one of whom was my incredible dad.  Grandpa passed away 10 years ago, a mere 4 months before my wedding.  He died peacefully in his living room, in the middle of his daily rosary. The only sad thing about my wedding is the fact that he was missing, physically anyway.

A friend of my cousin’s, an outsider to the family, but a Navy man himself, had this to say about our grandpa Bill:

I can tell u he was above his peers even other captains if he commanded long beach
Even better he never made Admiral. That means he was uncompromising and apolitical. An officer focused on the crew and the ship instead of his career and his boss.”

Pretty much sums it up.  Quiet, steady, dedicated, and true.

My Grandma Betty was a homemaker, a peacemaker, a faith-instiller, and a story teller.  She is, to this very day, full of love and laughter and lesson about life.  She spent her entire young motherhood raising children (often on her own with Grandpa away at sea), moving around the country, and (undoubtedly) making new friends at each and every turn.  She has spent her retirement years singing in choirs, playing cards, visiting family all over the country, and chatting with anyone within earshot. Her prayers have gotten us through some tough times.  The term that comes to mind is, “a force to be reckoned with.”  Would that I am blessed with half her faith, grit, and resolve in the raising of my own children.

Why did I share a little bit about my family history with you?  Honestly, I’m not quite sure. I can tell you that my life was definitively shaped by these two amazing lovebirds.  By their dedication to each other, to their family, and to their service of God and country.  Were they perfect?  Not by a long stretch.  But they continue to be examples for me and mine.

Deepest gratitude to the soldiers in our military and to their families that support them at home.  

Happy belated Memorial Day to all, especially my little brother.  Thanks for your service to our country, and for being an awesome brother, too.

Do you have any heroes, service members or otherwise, that you remembered on Memorial Day?  I’d love to hear about them.


Many Koreans alive today lived through the Korean War.  When I realized this fact a few months ago (I know, DUHHHHH), I was astonished.  Sure, the U.S. has fought in several wars since then, and many lives were touched due to soldiers’ deaths.  But as an entire country?

Do you know that the there were an estimated 2 million deaths in Korea during the period of 1950-1953?  Roughly 36,000 Americans died and over 8,000 went missing.

Do you know that the line between South Korea and North Korea was a fairly random assignation by the Allied forces?  Many families were separated, not necessarily by political beliefs but more by location, location, location. 

Do you know that Korea experienced nuclear fallout from Hiroshima?  We learned this last week when Kevin was gently teasing a Korean coworker about how you will never ever see a Korean without an umbrella in the rain, or even in heavy mist. Apparently it is  a leftover paranoia from nuclear fallout.    And yes, I know that Hiroshima has nothing to do with the Korean War.  But still… holdovers from a not-so-distant war.

I’m going to stop here because my knowledge about the Koran War is paltry at best.  Better to quit while I’m ahead.  If you happen to know any other facts about the Korean War, I would love to hear them.


  1. I love this ….so much. Nice writing cousin xoxo