Today I decided to spend Memorial Day differently from previous years. In all honesty, today was the first time in my life that I spent the Memorial Weekend, not at the beach, not at a park, not at a Barbeque… instead, my husband, my youngest daughter, and I visited the Texas Military Forces Museum at Camp Mabry in Austin.
I have been working in my book for so many years, I have felt grateful for the life of freedom my parents were able to build for me, my siblings, and our children; yet had never really given it more thought to it. It took something my father said to me last night to make it all click in my head enough for me to explore the meaning of Memorial Day.
Dad has been working in the first editing of the Spanish translation of Innocent War, so that my mother can start the Italian translation as well. He finally finished this weekend, and called me to let me know that he had emailed me the file.
“I worked almost all night but finally finished it. When I went to sleep, I dreamed about that whole mess of Tripoli again…”he said.
Nino Assenza, my father and main character of my book, is now 81 years old. He was 10, in Tripoli, Libya at the beginning of the war. That is 71 years ago…and yet the “dreams” can still come back…
We got to the Museum; I put on the donations library one of my books, and started walking around more curious than anything else. I started looking at all of the guns, bombs, from the civil war through WWI displays…etc. Then we got to the WWII display and my pace changed. We saw the uniforms, armament, and equipment. Then I saw pieces of an airplane and read the story of it…This could be one of the planes fighting the German planes over my father when they were at their soccer field in Sicily, I thought.
I kept walking and came to a room with roasters. I read some of the names from the 36 Texas regiment and continued to the other room, only to find out that they were in North Africa. My stomach dropped…these names were shooting at my grandfather. Their bombs and bullets were aimed at my Grandmother, my father, my aunt…and yet because they were shooting at my parents’ nation, I enjoyed a free life. This is so messed up, I thought as I got dizzy. I imagined the Americans shooting, they never knew that my father was hiding afraid, they never knew that their shots killed a camel next door of my father, and because of that he was able to eat meat for the first time in months. My father never thought that his daughter would live in the shooter’s home town…and yet here I was driving myself crazy with the ironies of war.
“War is a very bad thing because once the killing starts, it is very difficult to make it stop…” my father said at one of my speaking events in 2009 at Library in Weston, Florida.
He is right, I am and will always be an advocate for peace…but sometimes we humans have to take a stand. Many civilians and military died during WWII. But because in the 1940s there were regular people just like you and me here in the US, that went to the other side of the world to fight strangers…many lives were also saved, many lives were changed. I would be born 20 years later, but because of WWII, I was born with rights of freedom.
War, needs to be avoided at all costs, but if avoided could not be anymore, I want to tell those who are children of war…that today I think of you, because I am the product of children of war. I want to say to all in the US Armed Forces here, and in faraway lands, that today I think of you too because your sacrifice does make a difference in people lives and future, your sacrifice made a difference in mine…
When I finished Innocent War, Dad asked me to include the following in my dedication: “…to those who, during their childhood, were cheated, lied to, and cowardly abused by those who promote false ideals; and that once they had discovered the truth, were able to react and learn to build a new life.”
Today I want to dedicate this blog post to the US Armed Forces who help the children of war discover the truth and build a new life.