My brother, Todd sent me this Three Rivers Commercial front page recently. Reading it stirred up a lot of memories for me, including my first visit many years ago to the Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor.
I was barely six months old when my Uncle Ben died – but even though I have no actual remembrance of him, he looms big-as-life in my memory through the many around me who knew and loved him.
Ben’s brother, Jim served in the Merchant Marines, dodging Japanese submarines to deliver arms and materials to our fighting forces in Asia. I loved the War stories he used to tell at family gatherings. He rarely talked about Ben but when he did, I remember that he would hesitate for a moment and it felt like he was thinking of Ben as if he were still with us.
My Dad liked to tell stories too, about how Ben and the other two “Shively boys” played tricks on him when he and Mom were dating and first married. I am sure there were plenty of those “tricks” but the one he mentioned most often and wrote fondly about was the “Dodge Coupe Up In The Air”, in his memoir.
I don’t remember ever hearing my Granddad mention Ben’s name but I knew he was very bitter about our government having been so negligent, as to be surprised by the attack when everyone seemed to know it would come – just not exactly when. I don’t think I ever heard my Grandma say it, but I know she confided in my mother often that she expected Ben to come home someday. She probably never gave up that hope.
In high school, there was a collage of photos in the hallway, showing all those from St. Joseph County who had been lost in The War. I remember feeling somehow privileged that my Uncle Ben’s picture was right in the middle and twice the size of the others – he had been the first to fall.
But most of all, I remember how Mom would say to Dad every Christmas Eve, “Ben would have been xx [i]Some Web references have Ben’s date of birth as December 25, 1919, but I am fairly sure it was Christmas Eve. today”, and there would be total silence as they each looked sadly at each other and then at the floor, each remembering some special moment with him.
They say no one has ever left the Arizona Memorial with a dry eye and I have no doubt of that. I think some find it deeply troubling to stand “face-to-face” with those hundreds of lost names staring back at them from that giant marble plaque. Others I am sure are simply overcome with sadness, thinking of the waste and savagery of war. No one could escape the feeling of sorrow for all those who died in an instant that Sunday morning. I think having seen the pain in so many faces of those who loved Ben and lost him that day must have compounded all those feelings in my own memory.
Written: February 2019
Published: February 2019
|↑i||Some Web references have Ben’s date of birth as December 25, 1919, but I am fairly sure it was Christmas Eve.|