The parents of my generation served almost to a man and a woman in WWII. Uncle Tarmo seen here on a bicycle somewhere in Italy. I never met Uncle Tarmo. There’s a picture of him somewhere in a box in my garage where he poses with Leo the MGM lion… He trained animals figure skated and was an artist in civilian life. He fought his way from North Africa, through Sicily and Italy. He made it through the war but died in a VA Hospital in Memphis from lung cancer in 1945. We have his flag my Grandma left me. He is buried in a National Cemetery in Los Angeles.
I got to know Pentti quite well when I moved to the Bay Area in California in 1962. He was the first one to welcome into what would really become the starting point of my life. There are no pictures of him in uniform that I know of. He was a reluctant warrior… a gentle soul who carried a flame thrower on his back as his outfit fought its way through the South Pacific until we liberated the Philippines. He never talked about his service though I could see there was pride in his memory. There was pain too… he never really recovered from that experience. Today we would probably call it PTSD. In his 50’s he went into a VA Hospital for what seemed like a minor operation and it seemed as if living was just too painful for him. He never came out. I have missed him every day since then. He was my friend.
My Dad, Jorma Sr., was the oldest of the three boys. Born in 1910 with eyesight that needed correction, he tried to enlist and they wouldn’t take him. Mom laboriously helped him with eye exercises until he could pass the physical. He went into the Navy and because of his gift with languages, attended the Navy Language School which was in Ann Arbor in those days. He went to Japan after the surrender to MacArthur in ’45. After the fire bombing of Tokyo there was little left standing save plumbing and safes. My Dad’s guys cracked the safes, and Dad translated the documents they found. Dad would up spending many years in the Far East and would up a Foreign Service Officer. I am so grateful that Dad and I lived long enough to become real friends. He loved Vanessa and he would have loved the kids. I miss him calling me ‘The Kid.’
Jorma Sr. and Uncle Pen are buried in Inglewood Cemetery in LA next to my Mother Beatrice and my Grandparents Ida and Jaako. They rest together in the flight path of LA International Airport.
There is an unbroken line of veterans who have served this great country. I will just mention two of my dearest friends, Jerry S. and Chuck F. Thanks guys… and thanks to all the brothers and sister I will never meet…
I honor you all!