Where Are The Stars?
It was 1941 and I was nine years old. My mother and I were living in a rooming house in St Louis Mo and my teacher stood before our class on that day, December 7, and announced that Japan had just bombed Pearl Harbor. Most of us did not know where this place called Pearl Harbor was. I was just a kid from Arizona and my mother had brought me here because she thought she could find work in the many sewing factories.
We got all of our news about the war from the radio reports and newspapers. One day my mother told me that we would soon be going back to Phoenix Arizona for she had read that they were hiring many women to work in defense factories. All the young men of eighteen or older were enlisting in various branches of the service. I was delighted and soon we were on a Greyhound bus with our meager belongings.
My mother quickly applied for the job that required a person to test and fire the machine-guns that they were building to be fitted onto the planes that they were also building. I remember how disappointed she was when she was turned down for this position because of the fact that she did not weigh enough to control the firing of the gun. She was very small, so they offered her the position of bucking rivets because she could crawl into the wings of the planes. Yes, she became of the many Rosie the Riveter's.
We were now living in a seedy motel but it had a small kitchen. I was use to being on my own most of the time and now my mother was earning a better wage. The average man working in a wartime plant was paid $54.65 per week, while women were paid about $31.50 per week. Rationing food and stamps were soon a way of life.
I had started school and each day as I walked back to the motel, I passed in front of several modest houses. I soon begin to notice that many had little flags hanging inside on the window. There were small ones with stars and there were some that just had an American Flag. There was one house that caught my attention, not only for the star flags that were proudly displayed there, but the lady that sat there most days on the porch swing. She always spoke to me and asked me how school was that day. One day she asked me if I would like to join her for a glass of lemonade. This became a habit I looked forward too.
At first there had been four blue stars hanging on her flag. Then one day there was a yellow one added. I did not want to ask her about the flags and stars because my mother had explained to me what they meant and I could see the sadness in her face.
Each blue star symbolized a member of that family was serving in the military---the blue for---hope and pride; the gold for sacrifice to the cause of liberty and freedom. All the houses that I passed displayed this patriotic symbol.
In the months that passed and I sat there and enjoyed the company of this lady and her lemonade and sometimes added cookies, she became know to me as Mrs Em as she said all her friends called her that. Yet, she never talked about her sons to me, she kept the conversation on everyday things and sometimes helping me with my spelling homework for I had told her that my mother worked as a riveter at the aircraft plant and didn't get home till very late---she worked the swing-shift.
It was not long before those four blue stars became four---yellow stars and Mrs Em did not appear on her porch anymore. One day I just went up to the door and knocked gently to see if she was alright, after all she had been so nice to me. A neighbor lady seen me and told me that Mrs Em had passed away for in her view there was no need to be there now that she had given the utmost sacrifice by giving her---four sons.
Now! I ask you what has happened to our neighborhood symbols of patriotic pride? There are many young men and women that are serving in our military. Yet, the only time you see even a flag is sometimes on FLAG DAY.
Oh yes, you can go to Washington D.C. and visit the Vietnam Memorial and the sheer number of names is almost overwhelming. The total number (now 58,260, including 1,200 that are listed as missing.
Add to this visit the Vietnam Veterans Statue:
Also the sculpture of the Vietnam Women's Memorial it displays two women in uniform tending the wounds of a male soldier while a third women kneels nearby.
I believe that some wars were and are necessary, and some are not. I as a parent found that the hardest part is to watch a son or a daughter go off to honor this cause. I was fortunate that my son and daughter returned.
How wonderful it would be if again we could walk or drive down our streets and see these stars and striped displayed with hope and pride in our windows. After all not everyone has the means or opportunity to visit Washington D.C.
I write this for all the Ms. Em's and families of today's world: