By Susan A. Herney.
I delved into a cache of WWII-era letters and memorabilia found in the bottom drawer of an old file cabinet and discovered more than I anticipated – I experienced the imprint of my parents’ character and values as revealed through their correspondence during that challenging time. The letters became the story of STEADFAST, their true story of commitment and resilience in the face of war.
Letters between Ensign Albert Herney, USNR, and his wife, Dorothy, chronicle each of their parallel wartime journeys – his as communications officer aboard minesweeper U.S.S. Scurry in the Pacific Theater, and hers on the home front in Chula Vista, left to manage with rationed goods, two very young children, and her own contribution to the war effort as a Red Cross Nurse Aide.
The story provides a narrative of a couple adjusting to wartime separation. It includes descriptions of the ship’s role at battles at Iwo Jima and Okinawa, humorous anecdotes of shipboard life on one of the smallest ships in the fleet as it zigzags across the Pacific, and the joyful description of the sights and sounds in the harbor at San Pedro Bay, Leyte, Philippines when the news of Japan’s surrender reaches the ship. Al’s homecoming, delayed by his squadron’s subsequent role in clearing mines in the far Pacific to make way for occupation troops, was not to be until five months later. He was understandably chagrined! His final correspondence to Dorothy was an enthusiastic telegram from Pearl Harbor enroute home to San Diego, “Leaving Thursday…air the civvies and cool the champagne.”
On one dimension, the story is a personal one, a snapshot of family and our Chula Vista community from 1943 to 1946. However, it also provides a broader view of the challenges of a country at war, and that generation’s culture of commitment to family, nation and service. Although my father frequently acknowledged he was not particularly well-suited to military life, like so many others, he was committed to ‘the job Uncle gave me’ and did it well.
It is therefore not a surprise to learn that post-war he was a member of the San Diego American Legion Post, and was one of the founders of the San Diego Sheltered Workshop for disabled workers. He practiced law in San Diego with his sister, Marie Herney, and until his untimely death, was a member of the San Diego Downtown Lions. My mother was likewise inspired, and served as president of Las Madrinas (now Las Primeras), the original auxiliary affiliated with the Children’s Home Society, and as a member of the Lioness Auxiliary. In her retired years, her card club pooled their winnings at Gin Rummy and sustained a welfare fund for girls at Chula Vista High School.
Today, I am in awe of the leadership commitment Southwest Airlines makes to support “things that are important to the communities we serve” through the incredible efforts of Lidia S. Martinez and her Community Affairs and Grass Roots Team. Through creative partnerships with non-profit organizations, Lidia finds ways to leverage Southwest’s corporate sponsorships into community betterment. One terrific example is the Southwest Airlines partnership with the USS Midway Museum, which brings meaningful events and a wide range of educational opportunities to the community. I applaud these collaborations and the awesome results they achieve.
I also commend the Soroptomist – La Jolla Club in its efforts to support an innovative network of services to facilitate successful transition of women from military to civilian life. I look forward to volunteering with their upcoming fund-raiser ‘Bucket List Bash’ next June 11.
There are so many wonderful ways to contribute to one’s community and to “Give Back!” Thanks to Southwest Airlines for enabling such enlightened corporate leadership.
A native of Chula Vista, Susan Herney followed her parents’ example, engaging in community service as a member of the Chula Vista Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, and as a member and chair of the Chula Vista Board of Ethics. She also served as president of the National Council for Marketing and Communications, an organization devoted to professional growth of communications professionals at two-year colleges. She is a Patron Member of Las Primeras. To learn more about STEADFAST, visit www.steadfastwwii.com.