Our awareness of and love for WWII veterans started in 2005 when we participated in the 60th anniversary of Iwo Jima held in Fredericksburg, Texas. A few years later, our family traveled to Normandy for the first time and took part in the anniversary of the D-Day Invasion. The veteran friendships we formed there left an especially deep impression on us, but it wasn't until the summer of 2014, after returning from Normandy and the 70th anniversary of the D-Day, that the three of us decided to commit the next several years to honoring and showing gratitude to the veterans of the Second World War. We were deeply impacted by the shortage of time we have with this unique and special generation, and want to make the most of the opportunities we have to absorb all we can from their life and experiences, to understand what shaped them and made them into such a distinctive group, and to enjoy personal interaction with some of the most wonderful people we've ever met.
History has always been alive to us. Our grandparents and our parents taught us to interact with history whenever we could. We have always visited important historical sites and cemeteries with our family. We were encouraged and challenged to search, record, and internalize the important experiences from those who have gone before us and to learn from their wisdom.
The march of Providence is so slow, and our desires so impatient; the work of progress is so immense and our means of aiding it so feeble; the life of humanity is so long, that of the individual so brief, that we often see only the ebb of the advancing wave and are thus discouraged. It is history that teaches us to hope. -General Robert E. Lee
So what do we do then? We find or create opportunities to show our gratitude for those who have played such a special role in our history. The treasures of history that these men hold are deep and rich. We talk to them in person, ask them what they want us to remember, what they believe are the important lessons that our generation needs to learn from them. We love the friendships we have made and consider every interaction with these veterans as a gift. When they are gone, we will only have our memories; the conversations we shared, the photographs we took, and the letters we exchanged. Each life is so full of value, we feel an obligation to discover and understand, best as we can, and then tell their story. How did they grow up; who were the defining influences in their lives; were they connected to their family; what was important to them then, and what is important to them now. But these are not questions on a form. We don't see this as a news report, history research, or even a "project," important as those are. The answers to these questions, for us, come with time and friendship.
Sometimes we dress in the style of the 1940s WWII home-front, usually for special events. It started as a small way to show our appreciation for these men; but very quickly we found out this bridged the gap in our ages and generations, and reminded them of an era in which the simple details of life brought joy and stability during a time of great challenge. It's one of the greatest compliments we can receive to be told we look like their mother, or sister, or sweetheart.
Sometimes we are greeters and servers for events. When we can, we host our own gatherings in commemoration of anniversaries and special days, or just so that we can introduce veterans to each other and listen to them swap stories and experiences. Faith loves to sing the songs of the 1930s and 40s, the music the GIs grew up with. We love hearing her sing a special request and watching their responses. Some sit thoughtfully, others tear up, but the best is when they sing with her. Moments like this are just priceless to us. And as far as where the name "Operation Meatball" comes from... well, there really isn't an answer to that. Before the 2014 trip to Normandy, we threw around the idea of giving it a name in honor of previous endeavors such as Operation Overlord, Operation Fortitude, and the like. However, somehow along the way (no one really knows who started it) we ended up with Operation Meatball. Not very dignified, but neither was the name Operation Mincemeat.
Finally, the blog is our way of keeping record of just a few of the people we meet, and the things we learn along the way. We post as frequently as time permits, but if we are slow about it sometimes, don't worry, we'll get back to it soon!
Liberty, Jubilee, and Faith Phillips
San Antonio, Texas