Gramps had only one regret about his military service; he was not promoted to Captain. He tried a few times to get his rank changed and even called Susan Collins to see if she would hear his case. Some of his friends wrote on his behalf to presidents over the years. No luck.
Gramps’ favorite place to go this past year was the American Legion Post 94, over in the Junction, where he would have a donut, chat and play cribbage. One day last winter he came home happily surprised; he had met Major Mabee, and thereafter, he made sure to be there when she was.
Major Mabee is a no-nonsense woman with a heart of gold. She has beautiful long gray hair she keeps up, often under a hat. She plays a mean game of cribbage, is as quick witted as Gramps and she outranked him. Even if he lost a cribbage game to the Major, it was still a win for Gramps!
I think Gramps reminded Major Mabee of her father, also a vet, but whatever the reason, they became fast friends. It gave Gramps something to look forward to and often defined his day. He enjoyed all of his friends at the legion but the Major, I think, was his favorite.
They talked about their military service; Gramps told her about his time in the South Pacific and how he wished he had left the Army Air Corps as a captain.
In the last week of Gramps’ life, when it was apparent his time was short, Major Mabee came into his room at CA Dean hospital. Here is her telling of the event:
‘I walked into his room and stood at his bedside. Ed, I said, It’s Major Mabee. His eyelids fluttered a little and there was a slight smile. Ed, I brought you something. His eyelids again fluttered. Ed, you have to open your eyes to see what I brought you.
I held the card with the captain bars in front of him. His eyes slowly opened and at first he looked confused. Ed, these were my captain bars from when I was on active duty. I want you to have them.
He smiled widely and his blue eyes sparkled with understanding as I unofficially promoted him to Captain Ed Walden.
I added, Ed, don’t let this go to your head because I still outrank you. He murmured something. His eyes closed; his smile continued. I love you, Ed, I said, placed his captain bars on the bedside table and left.’
Last week we had a burial for Gramps with an honor guard, flag folding, and taps. Gramps was one of the few of the ‘Greatest Generation’ left.
This week he received a letter of thanks for his military service from the White House. He would have loved that.
Thank you, indeed, from all of us and farewell, Captain Edwin Schuyler Walden. You will not be forgotten.