Hats Off to a World War II Vet

Yesterday was a wonderful day. While standing in line at the pharmacy, the gentleman behind me smiled. I don’t go to the CVS to make friends, but somehow yesterday I did.

This older fellow’s smile, along with his vet’s hat, was engaging. He looked too young to have been in WWII so I asked him.

“Yes, I was in the Navy, this was my ship.  (He pointed to his hat.) Spent a good deal of time in New Guinea and the South Pacific.” He was tall, tan and handsome. I thought he must have been just a kid back then.

“You look too young to have been in World War II.” He smiled again, chuckled a little, and said he wasn’t young enough to play golf anymore. A small silence ensued. Then I told him my father was in World War II, a Marine who fought in Okinawa and Guam.  I mentioned that he was in Guadalcanal, too, though he didn’t fight there.

A young boy’s expression of surprise and wonder covered his face. It was one of those heart stopping moments that hangs in the air, sweet and delicate, like honeysuckle.

“Maybe we were on the same beaches!”

“Yes, maybe you were.”   He glanced momentarily away. Then his WWII blue eyes looked straight into my I’m-the-proud-daughter-of-a-WWII-Marine-vet blue eyes. He looked away for the second time but his glance quickly returned and locked onto my face. “My brother didn’t make it back,” he sighed. “He was killed in Europe.”

Now I felt like crying. “I’m sorry for you,” I said, “and for your poor mother and father.” That’s when he said in a low voice, “That was a long time ago.”

I responded, “Well, yes, but thank you for all that you did for our country.” Now I think he was ready to cry. I gently touched his arm – sometimes encounters of importance go this fast on life’s spiritual highway. He looked at me then, shook his head up and down and said, “It was an important time.”

“Yes it was,” I responded with reverence in my voice. “Semper Fi, Sir.”

“Anchors aweigh, sweet lady.”

Mary Jane Hurley Brant 2011

Mary Jane Hurley Brant

More Articles Written by Mary Jane

Mary Jane Hurley Brant, M.S.,CGP, is a practicing psychotherapist for 37 years who specializes in grief. She is author of the book, When Every Day Matters: A Mother’s Memoir of Love, Loss and Life. In this first person narrative M.J. addresses the suicide of her father when she was 13 and the life and death of her daughter, Katie, of a brain tumor. She is the founder of Mothers Finding Meaning Again. MJ can be reached through her website www.MaryJaneHurleyBrant.com

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  • Marty Tousley says:

    The gift you gave this sailor yesterday was priceless, MJ, and your story touches my heart. Sweet lady, indeed. (I am half-way through your book, “When Every Day Matters,” in which you share the inspiring but gut-wrenching story of your daughter Katie’s 10 year battle with brain cancer. In my next life, I want you to be my mother.)
    x o Marty

  • Mary Jane Hurley Brant says:

    Dear Marty,

    How kind of you to write about my WWII experience. I bet so many of us can think of the way Vets from all of our services have made our lives better, richer and never mind safer.

    In your next life I would be honored to be your mother and what a loving thing to say. No wonder so many people feel close to you here.

    xo MJ