Bill Hatcher, MAU's founder, was also my grandfather, and he was a veteran of the Navy. He did not talk with me much about his military service, but as I got older, I asked him some good questions, and he told a few stories to me. I want to share two of those stories in honor and memory of men and women who serve and have served our nation.
The first story is more for the MAU family. In my office, I have my grandfather's letter of admission to the University of Alabama's School of Law. He was admitted on August 15, 1949 and went to law school for one of the two years. Unfortunately, having finished undergraduate in three years, he was only able to keep GI Bill funding for the first year of law school. When the funding ended, he could not afford a second year. So, he sold his bike shop, took a job in human resources with a manufacturer and left Tuscaloosa. The rest is MAU history.
The second story relates to his World War II service. He served in the Navy and flew as part of the domestic antisubmarine operations. He was a Radio/Gunner and flew in a SB2C Douglas Hell Diver. The plane had two seats, and his job was to transmit and receive radio communications and, if necessary, fill in as an aerial gunner. He flew in the back. I remember the story he told me about one particular flight.
He and his pilot were supposed to fly with another pair. He was in the front plane and the other group was supposed to fly the rear plane. For reasons that he never knew, right before they took off, they received orders to switch planes. He and his pilot went to the rear plane, and the other group went to the front. They took off and, out over the ocean, the front plane lost its engine. The plane went down and the crew was lost.
A Final Word:
Despite knowing that story for about ten years, I've still never processed it fully. The other crew lost their lives keeping America's shores safe. They lost their lives protecting my freedom. They lost their lives and my grandfather lived. I am thankful, humbled, hurt and a bit lost, all at the same time.
And yet, on Memorial Day, I know that they and our other fallen service people deserve my recognition and thanks. And their families deserve to be remembered.
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