MEMORIES OF LOLO ON MEMORIAL DAY - my very earliest memory is standing before a behemoth of a Naval ship, watching my mother cry. I was about 3 years old. I asked her why she was crying. “I’m crying because I am so happy, because I know everything is going to be fine.” Even then I understood my mother was in pain and her actions did not match her words. We were, once again, saying good-bye to my father, as he went back on his ship, and this was in the middle of the Vietnam War. Luckily for us, my father did come home. And although he missed the first 3 years of my childhood, he more than showered me with love for the rest of his days.
Not everyone was lucky enough to have their Dad come home from Vietnam. Of those who did come back, many were “shell shocked,” or suffered what is now known as PTSD. Back then, people were not so welcoming of Vietnam Veterans. Some of my elementary school classmates chose not to tell people that their fathers were Vietnam Veterans because there was a stigma attached to it. Not for my father. He was IMMENSELY proud of his service -- at a time when others were not -- and taught his kids that we should be proud of it as well. My dad had lived through World War II in the Philippines as a child, and he had lived through the Vietnam War as a combatant, that it how he received his US Citizenship. And though he had endured so much, he loved everyone unconditionally.
He loved to tell stories from from his 7 years in the Navy. As a result, I can say three things in Tagalog, my father’s native tongue: “Hello, how are you?”, “Thank you,” and “OH MY GOD THAT MISSILE’S COMING BACK!” This is the story of “Bumabalik”.
Dad was stationed on board a guided missile cruiser which was stationed off the coast of North Vietnam. They were conducting combat operations, firing land missiles from the ship in support of an amphibious attack on the shore. It was something they did a lot. Except this time, they fired a missile and, for some unknown reason, the missile turned around and headed back toward the ship. This is the part where the sailors who were originally from the Philippines shouted, “Ang missile ay Bumabalik! Bumabalik!” -- or the missile is coming back!
“My Commander did not panic, he did not hesitate,” said Dad. “He immediately gave the command to shoot down the missile in the air. If he had hesitated, or second guessed himself for one second, we would have all been dead. We ran to our stations and shot it down. It exploded in mid-air. Bumabalik!”
On Memorial Day, we remember, pray for and give thanks to all those who gave their lives in the service of the United States. No matter what your political stripes, your opinion, your religion or any of your many freedoms that you probably take for granted, none of us would have them if it weren’t for those service members, from the Revolutionary War to the present, who made the ultimate sacrifice. But there are some other people to thank, and that would be their family members -- the wives, sons, daughters and parents of those who did not return. Because the family members served too, and they have made a sacrifice the rest of us cannot even dream of. This is their day, the other 364 days, you can thank all veterans for their service.
In memory of my Dad, Mariano Muyot (“Lolo”), December 26, 1935 - May 3, 2016 (Photo of Lolo on board the USS Galveston)