Memorial Day: Remembering My Uncle Foster
Monday, May 25, 2009
"No Greater Love..."
In what photos there are, he is a small boy in an outfit of the times, nestled amongst brothers. He is a young man, tall and strong, in a uniform that suited him well. The other photographs show a beautiful woman, his girlfriend, his fiance, the lady who was to have been his wife.
The photos are but black and white, but they show a bit of the life.
Foster was the eighth son of my grandfather, the baby of the fifteen that made up my Dad's family. Eight brothers and seven sisters and he was the last of them. It may well be that he was spoiled, as some have said, for when one is the last like that, with brothers and sisters several years older than you, there is indeed a tendency to spoil, to dote, and for those older to take pleasure in that youth.
Yet, that life surely was not one of plenty. The Great Depression took care of that, sending a family minus its father to make its way in a tough world. Whatever ease there was in early years was erased in the need to feed a family and hold when so many things slipped away. He may well have been a touch arrogant, though I have no way to access such claim.
The only thing I have are a few photos, and a few bits of memory shared.
When I was small, eating out was a very rare treat. A favorite place for those times, long before ethnic restaurants made an appearance in my hometown, held an eclectic menu featuring their version of Chinese food. I loved that food, finally being able to eat rice, and took to it with a passion. Dad watched and smiled, and made a comment that I reminded him of Foster. I asked who was this person, and Dad grew quiet and simply said that he had been his brother.
Foster loved Chinese food. In Hawai'i, during the war, one of the last times -- I suspect the very last time -- Dad saw his brother, they were able to share a meal. Foster chose a Chinese restaurant, which came as no surprise to Dad at that point, and they shared a meal and laughter -- and his was a dish similar/same as I had that night when I was six or so. He ate it with gusto, enjoying the pleasure while he could.
Flight was in him, and he was a pilot in the Navy. I gather he enjoyed flying, though he told Dad at one point that if they didn't make it back to the ship it would be because of his navigation. I learned this when I was learning to fly, and some comment on navigation brought that forth from Dad. He never talked at length about his brother, just bits here and there are what I remember. He told me once or twice that things about me reminded him of Foster, in tastes and passions, and his smile always held some trace of sadness as he remembered him.
I forget how the old album came to be out one day, I think after Mom died, but he showed me the photos of a Foster in uniform, of his lady, and a section of life of which I heard little. I saw a man I would love to have known.
It was at the end of the war, not long before the bombs fell on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The planes went in against a Japanese port in one of the last such raids done. The news reached Dad quickly, and Admiral Spruance made arrangements for Dad to visit with Foster's commander to hear from him what had happened. New orders for all came in that made that impossible, but Dad got to talk with him on the radio as the ships sailed apart.
The bombing had been successful, but somewhere in that fight and amidst the flack and fire, something had happened. His mates had seen his plane suddenly head to the water in a dive The dive was one they had seen before, when I pilot is hit, killed, and goes forward on the stick. None of the crew got out during that dive, and none showed on the water when it was done. Not much information for a brother who lost his little brother, merely an assurance that he was most likely dead from the moment that final dive began.
Today, I remember Foster, a man I never knew. He, as so many others, paid blood price for our freedom and watered the tree of liberty. My life today was made possible by his being cut short so many years ago.
Today, I ask you to remember him and the sacrifice he and his crew made. I ask you to remember Jeremy W. Burris, Marieo Guerrero, Damian Lopez, Ryan Dallam, Anthony Palermo, and all those who made the ultimate sacrifice for us.
This is not a day to thank the living, it is a day to thank the dead.
It is a day to remember them, to honor them, and to ensure that their memory and that for which they died lives on.