Ken Beaton: Treasure good memories

Ken Beaton

Ken Beaton

What day was Friday, May 6, 2022? Don’t tell me you didn’t know it was “Military Spouse Appreciation Day.”
If you’re in a military family, let me give you a suggestion. On Sunday, present your military spouse with a handmade sign wishing your spouse a “Happy Military Spouse Appreciation Day.” If your spouse is a female, make her another sign, “Happy Mother’s Day.” If you have a child(ren), get your child(ren) involved in making a sign for their mom for Mother’s Day. Instead of attempting to make a meal for your wife, I hope you made reservations at a sit-down restaurant, give mom a reason to look her best! Don’t you dare take mom to a “fast food” location.
On April 17, 1984, President Ronald Reagan signed Proclamation 5184, “Recognizing countless sacrifices and contributions made by military spouses since the days of the continental Army and Navy in our military. They are involved with base housing, military language, culture and long separations from their spouse.”
Unfortunately for married personnel serving in our military with their dependents, the military takes priority over their marriage and family. Long separations are challenging for the entire family of military personnel. I enjoy reading the signs held by spouses, “His eyes are blue, his boots are black, out of my way, my sailor’s BACK!”
A mother was holding her infant son who was born while his dad was at sea with a sign, “I’ve been waiting my WHOLE life to meet you.” I personally guarantee when a new dad holds his son or daughter for the first time, it will not be a “dry eye” moment. (It wasn’t a dry eye moment for me as I wrote this paragraph.)
The spouse and children at a Naval base dock or an airport have waited what seems forever for their military spouse/parent to rush down the gangplank or down the escalator at an airport to their family. Those hugs can come close to bone crushing!
For those who don’t know me, my dad enlisted in the USCG on Sept. 10, 1936, and retired on Oct. 31, 1956. I was born in 1941 and spent my first 15 ½ years as a Coast Guard Brat. I know first-hand about long deployments. When I was 2 months old, dad’s ship, the USCG cutter, Raritan, a 110-foot ocean tug with an ice breaking bow that could break ice up to three feet thick, sailed from Boston harbor to the “Ice Patrol” off the coast of Greenland. The Raritan returned to Boston 16 months later, in September 1942. Mom and I were at the Coast Guard base off Atlantic Ave in Boston waiting for dad to come down the gangplank. Being two months old when dad was deployed, sixteen months later I had no memory of my dad. He was a complete stranger to me. It broke his heart because I wouldn’t go to this “stranger’s” outstretched arms. Tears rolled down dad’s cheeks.
Within days dad was assigned to another ship stationed in Tampa Bay. I have family pictures of the house my parents rented with a couple of banana trees on the property. The rest of the War was a blur. We lived in Mobile, AL, Houston, TX, Peoria, IL, Seattle, WA, Astoria, OR, and Lynn, MA. Those are the places that I remember living as a kid. I probably forgot a couple. I do remember spending a lot of time in a Pullman Sleeper Car following dad to his new assignment. When traveling by train, mom always booked a bottom berth. Since she was 5-foot 1.5-inch tall, she slept at one end of the bottom berth. I slept at the other end of the same berth.
At the California State Railroad Museum in “Old Sacramento” the exhibits are memorable including all the different gauges of model trains displayed. In one of the museums’ exhibits was a Pullman Sleeper Car. As I climbed up the three or four stairs to enter the car, it was like a flashback in time. The Sleeper Car was rigged to move as if it was going 60 mph down the tracks. Suddenly I remembered the sign in the sleeper’s restroom, “Do NOT flush the toilet in the station.” In those days Pullman Railroad Cars didn’t have holding tanks for the toilets.
One of the ships my dad was assigned to was the USS Peoria, PF-67, a patrol frigate and sister ship to PF-50, the USS Carson City. The Peoria was one of the escorts protecting a convoy from German U-boats, submarines, while crossing the Atlantic Ocean. During WWII military mail was censored. Service men and women could not mention in a letter where they were. Dad knew that mom was curious about his location so he sent her a picture of him sitting on a live camel. Immediately, mom knew he was in North Africa. (When I was a kid, mom didn’t have GPS or a tracking device, but she had a network of neighborhood moms who reported to her when they saw me.)
Sunday is Mother’s Day. FYI, you’ll never go wrong if you treat your mom like every day is Mother’s Day. If your mom is alive, give her a special day of memories. Make the most of each moment you have with her. I speak from experience when I say one of the worst days of your life will be the first Mother’s Day after your mom’s has passed. Good memories are important to help pull you through the challenging times in your life.

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