I Remember Dad: Proud Be, Thy Service to America

By Richard Mabey Jr.


When my beloved father first arrived at Hickam Air Field in Hawaii, he was just 17 years old. How he did it, I’ll never know. But my dad was able to convince his mom and dad to allow him to quit school and join the United States Army Air Corps. My dad had intense motivation to join the service.


The Mabey clan is a fiercely patriotic family. Since the Revolutionary War, from all of my research on my family’s history, there has been a Mabey fighting in every American war. And, since the name Mabey has a Southern deviation of Mabry, Mabey men fought on both sides of the American Civil War.


My dad was no exception. Dad was such a patriotic man. Even now, looking back, Dad did his best to instill a love for the United States in the scouts whom he led as Scoutmaster of Boy Scout Troop 170. 


With all that in mind, there was still one more intensively motivating factor that inspired my dad to join the U. S. Army Air Corps at such a relatively young age. Just one month before Dad signed on the dotted line with Uncle Sam, Dad’s parents got the sad news that their son Edward’s ship had been sunk off the coast of England. It looked for sure that Edward had met his demise in the chilling cold waters of the deep Atlantic.


My grandmother, Bertha Mabey, once told me that she prayed for her son Edward with all of her heart, mind and soul. That she quietly, inwardly prayed for her lost son while she cooked, washed dishes, washed clothes and hung the clothes out on the clothesline. My grandmother told me that she never gave up hope that Edward was still alive.


As if the odds were a million to one, Edward was found by a British war ship. He was bobbing up and down on the waves of the cruel Atlantic Ocean, saved by his life preserver. The story goes that Uncle Ed was close to death when the British sailors heisted upon their ship. He had gone days without food and water. His survival was purely a miracle.


I think that the hours and days upon which my dear father saw his mother and father worry and pray about their son, Edward, greatly influenced Dad’s decision to drop out of school and join the Army Air Corps. 


The two brothers, Dad and Uncle Ed, would not be reunited until World War II came to an end. Uncle Ed was sent home first. Uncle Ed served in the U. S. Navy in the European Theater. Dad served in the Seventh Army Air Corps at Hickam Air Field, right next to Pearl Harbor.  They would finally see each other, both having survived the horrors at war, at the home their father built at the forested end of Mabey Lane. 


My grandfather, Watson Mabey, was not an outwardly religious man. He didn’t go around saying “praise the Lord” or “amen” or “alleluia.” But he had such a deep religious conviction that it was only by a miracle of God that his two sons came home from World War II. 


But the pain and agony and worry of having sons in harm’s way did not end for Watson and Bertha Mabey when World War II ended. Their two sons, Carl and David, would later be placed in harm’s way in the Korean War. Uncle Carl served in the U. S. Navy and Uncle Dave served in the U. S. Army. Then, in peace time, Watson and Bertha’s sons, Gerry and William served in the U. S. Army.


My grandfather’s brother, Earl Mabey, was killed in action in the First World War. My grandmother’s grandfather, William Storms, was killed in the American Civil War at the Battle of the Wilderness in Virginia. I don’t know how they endured having so many of their sons be placed in harm’s way. 


Grandpa used to simply say, “I just trusted the Lord to bring all my sons home.” There was no long-winded philosophical and theological discussion about it. Grandpa didn’t quote a dozen passages from the Holy Bible. He would just simply say, in the midst of the dozens of stories of family legends that he shared with his grandchildren, “sometimes, ya’ just got to trust in the Lord.”


Richard Mabey Jr. is a freelance writer. He can be reached at richardmabeyjr@hotmail.com. Please put on the subject line: My Life Publications. 


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