When carefully thought through, a planned surprise forms the foundation for a lasting memory – a gift which lasts a life-time as it is told and retold. Let me introduce the main characters of one such surprise: my father (now in his early 80’s), myself, a vivacious Caroline from Senator Charles Schumer’s office, two US Army medals, nearly 20 family members and an ice cream cake.
This past September I spent a day helping my father label and organize memorabilia from his Army days. He served in the 63rd Combat Engineer Battalion attached to the 25th Infantry Division in Kanaoka Barracks, Sakai (near Osaka), Japan from 1946 to 1949. Dad mentioned that he had never received his medals, and wished that he had them. The next day, after I unsuccessfully searched online for information on obtaining such things, I realized that I could harness the power of the United States Senate. Enclosing a copy of dad’s paperwork, I wrote my Senator asking for assistance. A very bubbly Caroline phoned the day I came home from the hospital after my mid-January surgery, telling me that the medals had arrived, and I would receive them the next day. And, when my mother phoned seeking a good day to visit, I suggested she wait until I was further along, so that my siblings could be present to witness dad receiving his medals.
My parents and sister arrived just after lunch on Saturday, settling in for a quiet visit. My brother and his family arrived – they were close for their son’s Boy Scout function and ‘decided to drop in.’ With the arrival of my sister who lives two hours drive away, dad mentioned that he didn’t know she was coming. The last piece of the puzzle was put in place with the arrival of another sister, her husband and children. By this time, boots were overflowing the back hall, children were making themselves at home, cameras were at the ready, and the only person who didn’t know why we had gathered en masse was my father. After herding the children (ages 4 to 11) into the living room, we presented dad with his medals. Visibly touched, dad’s teary eyes looked about the room, realizing that we had gathered for him. The afternoon was capped with an ice cream cake, his favorite dessert (nearly unobtainable during his time in Japan), inscribed “with thanks for your service.”
One of the medals is for serving in Occupied Japan. On the back of it is an image of Mt. Fuji. In my bedroom hangs a water color of Mt. Fuji in springtime, painted by Mr. Ito, one of the Japanese men working under my father’s supervision. My father had purchased some paint for him, and in gratitude, he gave my father some paintings.
After nearly 61 years, it wasn’t too late to say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” How good it is to say these words in the company of a community grounded in love.