Today was my dad’s 89th birthday and I called to wish him a happy one. He was 18 years old on D-Day when he landed at Omaha Beach on the Normandy coast of France; June 6th, 1944. His unit suffered 90% casualties during the invasion, but he survived to celebrate his 19th birthday in a foxhole in France. Not long after that he was wounded during the push inland and spent 6 months recovering in a hospital in England before returning to duty. He was awarded a Purple Heart for is injuries. Only a few years ago his unit also received medals of commendation, most of them posthumously.
For all of my youth and most of my adulthood he has not discussed the events of June, 1944. He tried to see Saving Private Ryan but had to leave the theater. He said the invasion scene was the most realistic he had ever seen in a movie, too close to the truth for him to watch, but that the real thing was far more horrible than any film could capture. He still doesn’t talk about his combat experiences, but in his later years he has found a great sense of pride in his former military service.
He was recalled to active duty during the Korean Conflict, but did not serve in the Korean theater. He had finished his bachelor’s degree in civil engineering and was assigned to an Army Corps of Engineers unit where he taught soldiers how to construct various kinds of bridges and other structures in the field.
When I talked to him today he said he had come across some interesting statistics recently regarding World War II. During the course of the war, which I took to mean from the attack on Pearl Harbor to the global end of hostilities, 16 million American men and women served on active duty. Of those 16 million, slightly less than one (1) million are still alive today, and the youngest of them, like my dad, are in their late 80’s. Millions more worked on the civilian side of the war effort, and I suspect the statistics for that group are very similar.
We went to breakfast in South Lyon with our ham radio club friends as we do most Saturday’s. The group varies in size from week to week; sometimes it’s as small as eight and sometimes, like today, over 20. Our club was holding a volunteer examiner (VE) testing session at 9 AM, as we do on the 4th Saturday of most months, so a few folks had to leave early to run the session. After breakfast five of us went to the Field Day site at the Lyon Township Atchison Memorial Park. We helped Steve (N8AR) unload his riding lawn mower and four of us moved heavy metal picnic tables out of the way so he could mow the field where the South Lyon Area Amateur Radio Club (SLAARC) will set up on Friday for the American Radio Relay League (ARRL) Field Day event.
Field Day is a 24 hour operating event to showcase the capabilities of amateur (ham) radio nationwide. It starts at 2 PM EDT on the last Saturday in June and ends at 2 PM EDT the next day. This is the second year in a row that we will miss Field Day, so we wanted to at least help with some of the site preparations
We finally had a day without rain and decided to work in the yard. We have a lot of trees and bushes on our property that are in need of serious trimming, including the removal of dead limbs and branches. We also have a lot of organic debris from previous trimmings lying around the yard in various places.
While Linda made a run to the recycling center I started trimming a red honeysuckle bush in front of our living room that was badly overgrown and blocked our view of the driveway from one of the windows. When she got back from the recycling center we worked on a tree that had grown out into our pull-through driveway and down towards the ground, making it difficult-to-impossible for Keith to mow the lawn under and around the tree.
While we were working on this tree Linda found a Painted Turtle resting in the shade under one of the branches that almost reached the ground. We wondered if it was the same one we had rescued a month ago as it tried to cross the road in front of our house. I had relocated that turtle to the northeast corner of our yard near our neighbor’s pond. We worked around the turtle for a while and enjoyed observing it, but once I was done with the trimming I relocated it to the northeast corner of the yard by the pond. I then worked on another, smaller tree near the driveway that had a lot of dead branches. We had several other trees on that same side of the house that had low hanging branches so I trimmed those as well. I then moved to the area just northwest of the house and did the same for a couple of trees there.
We gathered up all of the trimmings and separated them by green (with leaves) and dead (dry and able to burn). We hauled the dry trimmings back to our recently constructed fire pit where Linda made a pile of kindling from the smallest/driest material and started the fire. I kept trimming trees and cutting up larger limbs into smaller pieces for the burn pile while Linda hauled them to the fire pit. It was almost 5 PM by the time we quit working. We were tired and a bit sore, but it felt good to have accomplished tasks that needed to be done. There is a lot more to do, of course; we are learning just how much land five acres really is, especially with as many trees as we have. It will take more than one summer to fully prune our arbor, but that’s OK, we have time.
If the weather holds we will likely work in the yard again tomorrow. Keith will probably be here on Monday to mow the grass and we need to make sure all of the larger trimmings have been picked up before he arrives. I also want to prune our pear tree and apple tree before we get any deeper into summer. They both produced abundant and usable fruit last fall, but we were unable to reach most of it because the trees are badly shaped with too much tall, vertical growth in the center. But that is for another day; tonight we finished season 2 of Doc Martin and started season 3.