Today is my mother’s birthday. It is also Pearl Harbor Day. On this day 69 years ago the United States faced a shocking and horrific attack from a country considered to be its inferior. My papou was 17-years-old that day. He was a first generation American; his father and mother had moved from Greece for a better life only to be struck down into poverty by the Great Depression. Despite this, my papou had a fulfilling childhood and took his studies very seriously. He began writing poetry when he was 16 and dreamed of playing the violin professionally. He wanted to go to college. But on December 7, 1941 everything changed for him. His reaction to the news that the U.S. had been attacked was evident by the tears pouring down his face. He knew now that his dreams of playing the violin and of going to college wouldn’t come to fruition. A month later he turned 18. Shortly thereafter, he began his military training.
My papou fought in Europe in the 20th Amored Division. During the war he became sick with hepatitis and had to spend recovery time in France. After V-E Day his unit was to be the first into Japan had Truman not made the decision to drop the atomic bomb.
Thanks to Michael Bay, most people associate Pearl Harbor with bad acting, bad writing and one really good scene that involves a parachute and Josh Hartnett’s dog tags. For me, it’s a much more personal day. Like I said before it is the day of my mom’s birth, but it is also a day where I can celebrate my papou. I can picture him as a young man, standing before a newsstand, a paper in his hand with tears streaming down his face. It is an image that reminds me that when he was young he didn’t have a choice for his future. It is an image that reminds me that even though his world crumbled that day, he slowly picked up the pieces when he finished his tour and managed to go to college, found a successful business and become the first distributor of hydra sponges in the U.S. (It’s a big deal; I promise.)
I’ve been pretty scared about what the future holds lately. I don’t know if thinking about how brave my papou was when he was my age will help, but it’s certainly worth a shot. So today I salute you, Ted Tripolitis. Even though today’s twitter feed will be bursting with jokes about all 183 minutes of the historically ambiguous pile of poo manufactured by a pre-Optimus Prime Michael Bay, I shall instead think of you and what you have sacrificed for this country and for me.
Oh, and happy birthday Mom. I love you too and am proud of your war efforts which went a bit of a different route than your father’s. You remember, when you chose to protest the Vietnam war and almost got run down by a car outside the ROTC on Tiger (previously Maryland) Avenue when you were at Mizzou?
I have quite the standard to follow.