My 91 year old dad tends to exaggerate when retelling a tale. Or maybe I could say he turns an average story more colorful by augmenting the details. I suppose some might say he lies but, whatever…tomato, tomotto.
So, please understand that all these years when he talked abut his World War II Navy service in the South Pacific, some stories seemed fabricated. My personal favorite was when he grew a savage beard while he was on Borneo Island. He had to avoid cannibals, but, not to worry, his pet monkey could smell the enemy and warn him. Is it just me or does this story seem plucked straight out of The Adventures of Pippi Longstocking?
After my dad suffered a stroke this past August, we sent for his Navy records, hoping to find any evidence that he was injured in the war. An injury, we were told, would get him the “Golden Parachute” in benefits. When his records arrived last month, I learned that my father was in five battles (including Luzon, the second largest battle in the Pacific), his ship took a direct hit in a Japanese air bombing, he earned three bronze stars, a Meritorious Mast, and a ribbon for his participation in the Battle at Leyte.
Obvs, thanks to a certain monkey with a heightened olfactory sense, my dad suffered no injuries during the war. To which I say, Step off Pippi Longstocking, bye-bye Golden Parachute, and HELLO war hero Dad!
Within hours of receiving the Navy records, David and I go to visit my dad at the skilled nursing facility where he currently resides. David starts by shaking my dad’s stroke-weakened hand and says, “I just want to thank you for your service, I had no idea what a war hero you are”. Dad’s eyes are immediately bloodshot as he holds back tears. We sit there using our church voices for a bit, reflecting on his heroism. He assumes the humbled but grateful posturing of a true war hero as tears well in his eyes. Then–Presto Chango— someone in the room unwittingly takes the focus off Dad by asking, “Wasn’t it Audie Murphy who was the most decorated Army soldier?” I try to quickly direct the conversation back to my dad. I tell him how proud I am of his service, to which he retorts,
“You should be, I’m the Audie Murphy of the Navy”.
Maybe he exaggerated? Perhaps he’s not the most decorated Navy vet. Whatever…tomato, tomotto. He’s the Audie Murphy of my family.
Happy Veterans Day to all the heroes out there, Audie Murphys all.