Posted by: Nazausgraben | March 10, 2021

ON MR. HALL’S 97th BIRTHDAY


I recently came upon a report, “WWII Veteran Wants to be Buried in Navy Uniform, so she made one” as published online by the Navy Times about an elderly gentleman who very much wishes to be buried in a Navy uniform. Mr. Joseph Hall was a Petty Officer who served during WW2 and was hoping to have a uniform from that period. His old uniform no longer fit, so he turned to a friend – a seamstress – to create one (The original story can be found here: https://www.tampabay.com/life-culture/2021/02/04/a-dunedin-world-war-ii-veteran-wants-to-be-buried-in-uniform-so-she-made-him-one/) . 

Upon reading this, I was taken not only with the pride of service still held by Mr. Hall, but also the notion that there are so many of us (including myself)who, either recently or long retired, share Mr. Hall’s wish to be buried in uniform. For many who wear or who have worn the uniform, it is not merely a symbol of one’s public identity, but rather, it is the physical manifestation of a deep bond with others who have shared a unique calling. When the time arrives for one to hang the uniform away, doing so often evokes a special sense of loss, for with it goes a wealth of experiences that those who have not worn the uniform may neither comprehend nor value. The uniform is and remains a part of what we are; wearing it even after so many years, is not an act of sweet nostalgia, but rather the donning of what has become and always will remain a piece of oneself. Thus I can very well understand Mr. Hall’s desire to have that one final set of blues.

Mr. Hall is celebrating his 97th birthday this week. With regard to this special event, I was especially taken by Mr. Hall’s comment in the article that, “I have nobody to celebrate with. I’m the last,” he said. He has neither wife nor family.  His situation is indeed a moving reminder that the ‘greatest generation’ will soon be no more. For me it is especially important for Mr. Hall and all who have served to know that although their comrades may no longer be with us, they are never alone; that they remain part of a unique and noble military family who members have donned (and continue to wear) the uniform.

This past Monday I called Mr. Hall to wish him a very Happy 97th Birthday and to let him know that I and so many more very much appreciate his service. After introducing myself and noting my own Navy career, I asked Mr. Hall about how he might be celebrating that day. His reply confirmed what I already knew from the news article; Mr. Hall replied that he was alone. However, in the course of our conversation I was happy to learn that some members of his church would be be taking him out to dinner later that day. Still, it was clear that by ‘alone’ Mr. Hall was referring to family and especially comrades from his days in service, now all gone. I made the point to let Mr. Hall know that he is not now nor will he ever be alone; that I and all of his shipmates will always be with him. From what he said during our conversation I believe that he was most grateful for these sentiments. I promised him that I will be keeping in contact with him and look very much forward to celebrating his 100th birthday. I was delighted to hear his response; it was something to the effect that,”OK…it’s on my calendar!”

It is with this in mind might I make a humble request. There remain many veterans from generations past, having far fewer days ahead than behind, who are in situations similar to that of Mr. Hall. If you know or learn of such an individual, perhaps you might consider taking but a few moments to send him or her a card, email or even making contact via telephone call. I am certain that receiving such greetings will reassure those like Mr. Hall that during whatever time there may be left, they will indeed not be alone.


Responses

  1. Very moving. Lots of good sentiment and honest commitment. Thanks for sharing your very enlightened writing. Silvi

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  2. What a wonderful story Andy and how wonderful of you to not only feel the connection to this member of the Greatest Generation, but to actually make a real live connection with Mr Hall! Neither of us were alive during Mr Halls service in WW2, as he is a member of our parents’ generation, but how much do we Baby Boomers owe to those folks? WW2 hadn’t been over that long when we came into the world, and we grew up benefiting so much from the groundwork laid by those folks. The fairytale world we grew up in was only possible because of their service, so I join you in wishing Mr Hall a Happy Birthday, and only wish there more of his generation still with us. Nice job my friend!

    Frank


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