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Distance makes the heart grow fonder, at least that’s what they say, but who are they anyways. Have they ever experienced a long distance relationship with all of the struggles and obstacles that must be overcome? Maybe, maybe not. I do love Joel, but this long distance relationship has been an emotional tidal wave since I moved away.
Joel and I have been dating for four consecutive years and we are both entering our second year of college. We spend a lot of time apart because we go to different colleges, but we somehow manage to make our relationship work. I live in California and attend UCLA. Joel lives in Utah and attends the University of Utah. We both grew up in a small town in Utah called Arbor Springs. I am majoring in world affairs and Joel is getting a degree in business. We just spent the weekend together at my mother and father’s house because it was Thanksgiving. Father was able to get some vacation time and return home from Hawaii, where he is currently stationed. Father joined the Military a long time ago and has always been willing to travel around. Since he has gotten older, his trips have gotten shorter. He will be in Hawaii for three more weeks, and then he will come home for good, just in time for the holidays.
Thanksgiving is one of my most favorite times of the year. Of course Christmas is my favorite, but Thanksgiving is a very relaxing holiday. No gifts are needed, just family and food. Joel came and spent the weekend with my family. They really seem to like him. The first few years we were dating were amazing. In high school we were inseparable. We spent every afternoon together doing homework and hanging out. On weekends we would attend sporting events or go out for a night. Every free moment was spent taking on the phone. Sometimes our parents got irritated with us, but all we wanted to do was be with each other.
Keeping a tight relationship started to become more difficult after I accepted my full ride to UCLE. I moved far away and hanging out every minute wasn’t even an option. Phone calls were scarce as well because we were both busy with our course work. When we did finally see each other, it was apparent that our feelings for each other had not changed.
Now it is time to return to school. I really enjoy school because I am learning many different ways to look at world issues that I would have never thought about. I sometimes get lonely though, and I especially miss Joel. Today is December 6. We have our final exams this week, and then this semester is done! I have to study for my class on world wars: Preventing another Great War. Right now a war is arising but the United States has not joined yet. My hope is that we stay out of it. December 7. Tragedy has struck. Japan has bombed our naval base in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, right where my dad is stationed. I don’t even know what to think. I am grieving the loss of the lives taken, but there is nothing I can do about it.
Then my professor calls me and says, “Veronica, do you want to do something about this?” and I say, “There is nothing I can do.”
He says, “There is something you can do. You can go to Pearl Harbor and serve your country in a very close and personal setting. I know your father was stationed down there, maybe you will find him.”
I tell him, “Yes I would love to do that,” and I thank him for the opportunity. He tells me that I sail out tomorrow at 6 o’clock in the morning.
First I call my mother. She is shocked by the news of the attack, but I think it makes her feel a little bit better that I am going to help clean up, and maybe I will be able to find father too. The next person I call is Joel. He has already learned of the attack and knew my father was there. I tell him that I am going to Pearl Harbor to help and he doesn’t like the idea, but he understands. He tells me to take care of myself because he could not afford to lose me.
December 8: the ship ride. It was a long and lonely voyage. I could not wait until I arrived. Finally the announcement was made that we were to be docking soon. When I got off the ship, I was directed to a lady who was in charge of one of the restoration projects. She told me that my job was to help the nurses out because they had so many patients and they needed extra hands and extra help. I was going to bring people food and drink, help them to the bathroom, and get a nurse if they needed one. I thought that sounded like a good plan. I could handle this, and hopefully I would find my father. I was nervous about what I might see, but also excited for the opportunity to volunteer my time and abilities.
We headed to a school that had been turned into an emergency hospital because of the overflow of patients. I met one of the nurses, Marsha, who was going to show me around. She showed me five different rooms with three patients in each. She said that I was going to be in charge of their meals and comfort. If they needed anything off the medical nature I must come to her immediately. I went into the first room. The first soldier was missing a leg, the second one had a head injury, and the third had a bullet wound in his arm. I asked them if they needed anything and they said no, so I proceeded to the next room. Room after room the injuries were terrible. Some couldn’t talk and the only way to identify them was by their dog tags. Most of them were content at that moment, probably because they had so much morphine in their system that they couldn’t feel anything.
I had to take a break before I kept going. The sights were too horrendous for me to comprehend. I knew war was bad, but I had never experienced it up close. This was a new exposure for me, one I did not like at all.
When I got to the last room, I could feel that something was different. The first bed contained a nurse who had been shot through a window. The second bed contained a young man who lost both legs and an eye. The third bed contained an older man who had all four limbs but had three bullet wounds and his face was so scarred that it was almost impossible to tell if this man was alive or not. Because he could not talk I decided to look at his tag. “Shane Smith” it read.
“This is my father!” I exclaimed.
I was overjoyed at the thought that I had finally found my father. It was truly unbelievable. After figuring out that my father was part of my placement, I spent the majority of my time in his room. I still made sure all of the other patients were comfortable, but I spent most of my time by his side. He was not doing well. Two of his bullet wounds had infections and his breathing was difficult. I was hoping and praying everyday that he would make a turn for the better. I stayed by his side and willed God to give him the strength he needed to live. Sadly, this did not happen. My father died in the hospital due to a high fever caused by the infection. Many emotions ran through my head as I listened to the doctor speak. I was angry about the stupid war and angry at God for not helping my father get better. I was also full of grief and sorrow. I called Joel for comfort but he did not answer his phone, so I wept just sitting there in the hospital chair. I decided to be done with Pearl Harbor and I flew back to my mother’s house in Utah.
My mother heard the news before I arrived, and had not been taking it very well. Her voice was almost nonexistent as she was trying to talk to me, probably from crying all day. When I pulled into the driveway she ran out to hug me, and she told me that she was glad I was okay. She was still crying, but there was a hint of a smile on her face. I cried too and we stayed in an embrace for four minutes. Then I realized that Joel was there too. He came up and hugged me, and didn’t say anything for a long time. He finally whispered that he was moving to California. I turned around, shocked and asked why.
He said, “Veronica, I love you. I want to marry you. Will you marry me so we will never be torn apart again?”
It was a strange moment because I finally felt joy after all the sorrow I had experienced.
“Yes,” I exclaimed, “A hundred times over!”
My winter was a roller coaster of emotions, but in the end I know that God is good and will make my life good as well.
Portola Valley, California
Winter Garden, Florida
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