VANCOUVER, Wash. — This is a picture of my favorite veteran. He’s my Dad, who died 39 years ago today in a most unexpected and tragic manner.
That is not why I am posting this item about Pete Kanelis. It involves my belief that Dad was my favorite military veteran. I heard something this week from his sole surviving brother that I did not know, but which solidifies my opinion about Dad’s service to the country in a time of great peril.
My wife and I were visiting Uncle Tino and Aunt Claudia the other day. We were reminiscing about family. Then my uncle offered this bit of information that I never knew; if I knew, perhaps I forgot. It’s chilling and heroic at the same time.
Uncle Tino was 9 years of age when the Japanese attacked us at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. He told us about how he and the rest of his family were listening to the radio at their home in Portland. They were transfixed by what the news reports were telling the world about what had just happened, which is that the Japanese Empire had just committed a supreme act of war on the United States.
President Roosevelt would stand before Congress the next day to ask for a declaration of war in retaliation for the “dastardly act.” Dad didn’t wait for the president to make his request, according to Uncle Tino.
“Your Dad got up out of his chair and left the room,” Tino told us. He said Dad — who was 20 years of age — went downtown on that Sunday afternoon to enlist in the military. That very day! He was so enraged at what he had heard that he wanted to get into the fight immediately.
Dad did tell me once that his intention was to enlist in the Marine Corps, but that the Marines’ office was closed. So, he walked across the hall and enlisted in the Navy.
I don’t recall Dad telling me that he did all that on the very day of the Pearl Harbor attack. I do recall him saying that he actually reported for duty in January or February 1942. I guess I never pieced together over those many decades that Dad well could have been motivated in the moment to join the fight, but that it took a few weeks for the paperwork to get processed.
Tino told us he remembers the day “vividly.” I believe him. Dad was a red-blooded American patriot. It rings so very true to me that he would act so impulsively.
Dad got into the fight in a big way. He saw combat in the Mediterranean Theater battling the Germans and Italians. He and millions of other young Americans fought hard and saved the world from the tyrants who sought to conquer it.
I am grateful to hear this recollection, as it affirms my view of my favorite veteran.