From WWII to Siena College, a U.S. Marine’s Voyage
Veteran's Day often reminds me of my dad's early pilgrimage in life. Military service is often a foundation and launch pad for one's future in many ways. The experiences and the lessons from these experiences are often played out and passed down for generations to come.
My father was from Whitestone, Queens, not far from where they eventually built Shea Stadium, now Citi Field. His teenage years were much different than mine. He withdrew from the University of Alabama in the second semester of his freshman year. About two months earlier, Japan had bombed Pearl Harbor in December of 1941. My father, like so many Americans at the time, was determined to defend his country. My grandparents wouldn't let him sign up at 17 years old, so he waited until his 18th birthday and off he went to Parris Island, South Carolina.
My father, like many others, spent his early adult years in flying from island to island in the Pacific Ocean corridor, in the midst of World War II. Staff Sargent Voelker was an aviation radio operator in the United States Marine Corp from 1942 to 1945. He lost many friends and relatives, while growing up faster than most during those years.
After an Honorable Discharge from the Marines, my father wanted to head back to college. Thanks to the G.I. Bill passed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1944, Bob Voelker was off to Siena College. A lot happened to my family while my dad was studying at Siena. He and my mother were married and my oldest sister was born. The beginnings of our Long Island family began right here.
I am not quite sure which my father had a greater love for, the Marine Corp or Siena. It was certainly a 1 & 1a choice in his book. I truly believe that both molded his character equally. My dad had deep convictions. He loved the United States of America and what it stood for. He believed that all humans are created equal. He treated my mother with love and respect. He loved his kids and his grandkids with all of his heart and his favorite baseball player was Willie Mays. My father told me repeatedly, "if you work hard, treat all people like you want to be treated and tell the truth, everything in life will work out."
I think many of those values came from those formative years in the military and then college. We celebrated the Marine Corp's birthday every November 10th and he rooted for the Siena Saints basketball team until he passed in 2001. Bob Voelker was certainly a U.S Marine that bled Green & Gold. To all of our Armed Service Members, we salute you and thank you for your service. Happy Veterans Day!