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I am proud to be an American
By Janet Abbott Fast 

     I am proud to be an American. On Wednesday, the day after the horror and tragedy in New York and D.C., as I drove through the Northern Neck, there were flags. Flags flying at half mast, and flags on short poles on front porches and trees; there were flags, recently purchased, planted in front yards, on mailboxes, and in front of places of business.

     There were signs on signboards, “God Bless America,” and “God Bless the Victims and their Families.” I am proud of my ancestors. My grandfather served in the Navy and was assigned to the Navy’s last sailing vessel, The Monongehela. Later he served in the Spanish American War .

     I was a very young child when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. My daddy served in World War II, on Okinawa. He will only say that his job was “To praise the Lord and pass the ammunition.” 

     As a small child I recall drawing airplanes, crashing and shooting down the enemy. I learned how to draw the swastika on those enemy planes, even though I didn’t know what it meant.

     I remember peeling off aluminum foil from chewing gum wrappers, ration coupons and saving bacon grease in a can on our kitchen stove. I remember my mother and I lived in a garage apartment, one flight up, a block away from the hospital where I was born. My mother worked as a American Red Cross Volunteer Nurses Aide at that local hospital.

     I remember my mother and I going to visit a friend of hers, who had a husband serving in the Navy. She had young girl, my age. The two women played records after putting us to bed. The woman would sprinkle cologne on our pillowcases before we went to sleep. Later, my mother would awaken me and we would walk the four blocks home in the dark.

     I remember butter was not available and that margarine came in a clear plastic bag, with an orange button in the middle. To color the margarine, we would let the package soften and pop the button and work it into the package until it became butter colored.

     I remember singing “The Caisson” song, “Anchors Aweigh,” and “The Halls of Montezuma” (the Marine Hymn.) 

     After the war ended I recall riding on the Chesapeake & Ohio railway, and seeing the troop trains, filled with soldiers returning home from war.

     Recently, my daddy said, “When Pearl Harbor happened, we knew who the enemy was. Now we can only speculate who the enemy is.” Recalling Pearl Harbor, he said, “It was on a Sunday afternoon, we were having lunch, and we lived in Jackson, Tennessee.” (He was assigned to the Army post in Milan, Tennessee.)
“My immediate reaction was ‘we’ll bury those b------ds; we’ll swamp Japan.’ I didn’t realize it would take four more years.”

     My mother says she thought, “Well, what next?” as she had had many changes in her young life by that time.

     I remember the phone call when Desert Storm began. I was vacationing in the Caribbean, when my son called to tell me about the action. He was on active duty in the Army at that time. My gut wrenched and my heart was in my throat. This was my first born child and my only son. Had that war lasted a day longer, his was the next unit in line to be called up. 

     My former husband served in the Army and was discharged just prior to Vietnam. And now my only grandson is 17. 

     I am proud to be an American. 

© 2001 Janet Abbott Fast All Rights Reserved


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