Growing up in the Maida household consisted of strict discipline, forced sharing with two sisters, garden veggies, fried bologna and war stories to name a few. My mother met my father in San Diego during WWII. She was from Italy, Texas stationed at Camp Pendleton in the Navy – he was a Marine from Syracuse, New York that had been wounded on Hill 660 and was also at Pendleton. Daddy was born in the country of Italy and had come to America when he was a year old.
My sisters and I listened to many stories of combat – some of them we believed and others we did not, but we would not let Daddy know that out of respect. He often talked of being King on an island in the South Pacific. We would think, “yeah, right” but never say anything.
A couple of his Marine buddies would stop to visit when they were in the area. I remember as a little girl how afraid I was of Smitty and Scotty because of their war wounds and the deformaties the wounds had caused. As I got older I could look past their physical appearance and admire their honesty, bravery, and sacrifice.
My sisters and I were taught from an early age that patriotism, respect for Old Glory and sacrifice for America were important. The pride on my parents faces when I was sworn in as an active duty member of the United States Air Force said it all. When they attended my graduation from basic training, they beamed when they saw me in my uniform.
King on an island
When we grew up in the Maida household, one of the things we heard over and over from my dad was that he was King on an Island. We never believed that story until he produced newspaper articles proving it was true. As unbelievable as it sounds, the story was not fiction but fact. He slept on the King’s bed and the King slept on the floor. His men were treated like royalty. We even saw a comic strip about King Mike.
Duty in Cuba
My dad was always telling tales of war battles, people he met, things he did and so forth. Most of these were so far fetched that we did not believe them. One of those tales was about his duty time in Cuba. He had been stationed there during WWII before he was injured. His sister recently shared a letter he had written to her while stationed there. The letter proves the stories he told us as children were indeed true.
I am in the best of health + hope to hear the same from you. I am sorry that I didn’t write sooner but we have had a bit of excitement down here. We are fighting bandits down here all the time, and we are allways on the go. Just the other night I shot and killed two Cubans because they were trying to steal guns while I was on guard duty. Boy was I shaking. That was the first time I ever killed anybody in my life. But I had to do it, it was my duty. If I didn’t shoot, they would have shot me. So I am all right now. Thank the lord. Well there are 11,000 Marines down here and are we mad. They will not give us liberty because they are to many spies around. They took our cameras away from us because we have military “secrets” such as aeroplanes, cannons and guns. So you see they are preparing for war. And it is hot down here. We go out hiking every day, looking for bandits and then we come in at night and we are so tired that we cannot even eat. And the mosquitoes. They eat us up alive. We have to sleep with mosquito nets over our bunks “or beds to you”. About that picture I promised you. Write home to ma, and tell her to take the picture that I had taken to the Gold-tone studios and have them make another picture of the one I had taken and send it to you. Write and tell me all about yourself and send my love to all the kids there, and wish them all a speedy recovery. And send my love to the nurses. Write soon. Love xxxxxxx Mike"
An American Hero
If we included all the stories he told us when we were growing up, this article would never be completed. As I have grown older, I have realized many things about my father. He was definitely not the perfect father but he was the perfect type of person to be a Marine. He was proud of his service to America. He was brave, tender-hearted, kind and patriotic. I know if he could have done it all over again, he would have sacrificed his life for our country. Because of the injuries sustained while on active duty, he lived every day of his life in pain. He witnessed things that caused him to have nightmares, memories than never faded. Even with everything he suffered, he would have gladly done it all over again.
“King Mike” sustained 5 hits to his head from machine gun fire and had many surgeries all under local anesthetic. The injuries were too close to his brain to put him to sleep. He would sing and talk to the doctor and nurses while they worked on him. He received a purple heart for his injuries and a silver star for bravery.
There are so many oddities of war. After my parents met, married and moved to Italy, Texas my dad was talking to his friend Olen Yarbrough one day about his service in the Marine Corp. Olen was also a Marine with many stories of his own. As they talked they realized they were in the same battle. As they continued to talk, they discovered they were fighting in adjacent fox holes, no more than 10 feet from each other but never met. After that day, their bond of friendship grew.
Say Thank You to a Vet
Every year, Bobby Sparkman, an Italy resident, would call my dad and thank him for his service. Bobby told me when my dad died that he respected my dad because he had earned it and deserved it. I don’t think Bobby ever realized how much those calls meant to my dad. Often the calls made him cry.
This Veterans’ Day, if you don’t do anything else, say “a special thank you” to the veterans you know. Because of their service and sacrifice, we all enjoy freedom and liberty. They are the reason we all can go to work or school or shopping without fear of reprisal. They are the reason we all can go to the church of our choice and worship God without fear of persecution. They are the reason we all can enjoy our life without fear of oppression. They are the reason!
So, Mom and Dad – Thank You for what you did for America. Thank you for teaching me to respect Old Glory. Thank you for raising me to love America. Thank you for insuring I have freedom to live as I choose, go where I choose and do what I choose. Thank you for insuring I have the right to write this article. The end for now.