Note: I posted this a month ago, and am reposting for Memorial Day. I also just found this sweet picture of my Mom and Dad from 1942, on his graduation from UMd. They had just married. He was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant in the Army, but joined the Marines soon thereafter.
My father served in the US Marines for almost 30 years, in combat in WW II, Korea, and Vietman. He retired a full Colonel. I heard his stories many times. But it wasn’t until my daughter Erin was videotaping him for the family when he was in his mid-80′s (soon after my mother passed away), that I began to fully understood how much he and so many others of his generation gave. I had known that he was in the Pacific in WWII for a long time, but only when he spoke for the camera, did I realize if was for 2 1/2 years. With one 2 week furlough. He used that furlough to meet my mother Virginia in San Francisco. Then back to the Pacific, and the eventual surrender of Japan. Mom wrote him everyday. I had heard that story. I thought perhaps it was an exaggeration. But as he looked into the camera, I could almost see him opening those letters. It was true. Every day. Even if only a sentence. “I love you”. ”I miss you”. Sometimes she wrote pages. Far out in the Pacific, the troops got mail late, very late, and in big batches. Dad would open them, dozens at a time. And he would read the words sent from Mom’s Distant Heart to his. Their distant love, which stood the test of time and war, inspired this song.
I tried to imagine in the song, what it was like for Dad. He was in his early 20’s, newly married, and very distant from the Pocono mountains of PA where he grew up. The conflict of being young and very much in love, and at the same time in very brutal war. The certainty of my mother’s love when he received those precious letters.
I should write a song specifically about those letters. I would give anything to find one of them. Though I know, they still live in this old soldier’s heart. This post, and the song below, are for my parents Distant Hearts from long ago. To all who gave their lives. To all who served then, who serve now, and are distant from the ones they love.
The Colonel is now 93, in a nursing home. Erin and I just visited him this Memorial Day. We had a big chocolate cupcake for him, with a Marine flag on it (he still loves chocolate…and Marine flags). I showed him the picture above that I had found, and he smiled, his eyes lighting up. I can imagine him and Mom swing dancing….maybe he did too. We called some family, and friends, including some Marines (though from a younger generation) who still keep up with Dad. It is true, they are The Few, The Proud. And as they say, Semper Fi !
Hear (and download) the song, here: http://johnpaulmcneil.bandcamp.com/