Finding Meaning

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A Day of Infamy

By Skip Hellewell

Some dates are especially fraught with meaning—like today, Dec. 7. Forever linked to the attack on Pearl Harbor, President Franklin D. Roosevelt told Congress it would “live in infamy.”  Roosevelt’s prior speeches had been met by Democratic applause and Republican silence. But now, at the brink of a war we sought to avoid, all united in applause. The country united, too. After all that has been written about WWII, we should remember this one thing: the strength of a people united in purpose. Could I share the experience of one ordinary family?

My dad was disqualified from military service by a childhood hip injury, so he worked at a nearby air base inspecting material flowing to the Pacific Theatre. Also working there was my mom, in personnel; one grandmother, at the base laundry where she collected a coffee can of military patches; the other grandmother, a warehouse-woman. Two aunts worked there as “Rosie the Riveters” modifying warplanes. My grandfather was an electrician in military construction.  I also had four uncles who served. They are gone now, but they were once young, and soldiers.

My Uncle Gil was in the Army’s 90th Division, spending his first years defending the coast around Laguna against a feared invasion. An elderly couple befriended him and welcomed him into their home, causing a life-long affection for Laguna Beach. He landed at Normandy, fought across France and Germany, and was promoted through the ranks to captain. Uncle Jim served in the Army Air Corp, flying 41 missions as a flight engineer/turret gunner in the B-26 Marauder.  Bad weather had grounded them during the Battle of the Bulge, but when it cleared, they went to work with a vengeance, even flying two missions on Christmas Day.

Uncle Don parachuted into France with the 82nd Airborne on the night before D-Day. There was great tension in their plane on the flight over, but he never forgot the sight of looking down on the moon-lit English Channel and seeing the vast armada of ships coming to help. Joining up with other soldiers, though he had broken an ankle on landing, they fought a week-long battle to control a key crossroads—a thrown-together company holding off a regiment. He won a bronze star for courageously exposing himself to enemy fire but thought the honor undeserved, for in the adrenalin-filled fight he was oblivious to the danger. Downplaying his own role, he always noted how tough the boys on the beaches of Normandy had it. And he would tell of one special memory from his first morning in France—the warm welcoming hug from the wife at a French farmhouse for these brave young liberators.

My Uncle Glen fought in the Pacific, landed with the Marines at Okinawa and survived the horrors of that campaign. My uncles were modest about their roles and reluctant to share details. They did the jobs assigned to them and then went home. Our country today is as polarized and in need of unity as any time in my memory. Perhaps yours, too. It’s good to pause and reflect on the unity that once upon a time empowered us to save the world.

Tonight, we also kick off the holiday season with Laguna’s Hospitality Night. It’s a reminder of how blessed we are; there’s meaning in that.

 

Skip fell in love with Laguna on a ‘50s surfing trip. He’s a student of Laguna history and the author of “Loving Laguna: A Local’s Guide to Laguna Beach.” Email: [email protected]

Places to worship (all on Sunday, unless noted):

Baha’i’s of Laguna Beach—contact [email protected] for events and meetings.

Calvary Chapel Seaside, 21540 Wesley Drive (Lang Park Community Center), 10:30 a.m.

Chabad Jewish Center, 30804 S. Coast Hwy, Fri. 6 p.m., Sat. 10:30 a.m., Sun. 8 a.m.

Church by the Sea, 468 Legion St., 9 & 10:45 a.m.

Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 682 Park Ave., 10 a.m.

First Church of Christ, Scientist, 635 High Dr., 10 a.m.

ISKCON (Hare Krishna), 285 Legion St., 5 p.m., with 6:45 feast.

Jehovah’s Witnesses, 20912 Laguna Canyon Rd., 1:00 p.m.

Laguna Beach Net-Works, 286 St. Ann’s Dr., 10 a.m.

Laguna Presbyterian, 415 Forest Ave., 8:30 & 10 a.m.

Neighborhood Congregational Church (UCC), 340 St. Ann’s Drive, 10 a.m.

United Methodist Church, 21632 Wesley, 10 a.m.

St. Catherine of Siena (Catholic), 1042 Temple Terrace, 7:30, 9, 11, 1:30 p.m. (Spanish), 5:30 p.m.  There are 8 a.m. masses on other days and Saturday 5:30 p.m. vigils.

St. Francis by the Sea (American Catholic), 430 Park, 9:30 a.m.

St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, 428 Park Ave., 8:00 & 10:30 a.m.

Unitarian Universalist, 429 Cypress St., 10:30 a.m.

 

 

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