Monday, May 27, 2013

Day 9: "I have loved well and been loved well." - Don Ellwood

On Don Ellwood's eightly-fifth birthday, he reflected on his past memories and experiences, and depicted a life full of adventure and intrigue. Imagine being seventeen years old and steering a massive merchant ship into the throws of a hurricane. Or imagine that saving this merchant ship is not only vital to your own life but the lives of troops fighting in the war in desperate need of supplies. For Don Ellwood, this was not some made up scenario but his reality as a young Merchant Seaman. When he was just 16 years old, Don saw an ad in the newspaper for help needed as a Merchant Marine. Since he was too young to be in the military, Don decided signing up for the Merchant Marines was his only chance to be a part of the war and left his senior year of high school to take the call. He served on several ships carrying not only cargo, but prisoners of war and troops back and forth across the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

During his service with the Merchant Marines, Don encountered incredible feats and challenges for his adolescent mind. His first voyage brought him to where we are visiting today: Liverpool, England. Here his first convoy hauled tanks, cigarettes, and other cargo for the soldiers on the front lines. His second mission, however, was more dangerous and serious in nature. Don said that he did not understand some of the secrecy on the ship, at the time, and was confused by the limited supplies they carried to Swansea, Whales. After unloading, they made a stop in Cherbourg, France, and Don suddenly realized their true mission--transporting five hundred German prisoners of war back to the states. Young Don was amazed that these prisoners were boys of twelve and thirteen years of age mixed with elderly men. During his voyage back, his ship encountered a massive hurricane that put Don's training to the test as he steered through the storm. Though many were terrified, Ellwood was exhilarated at the chance to play such a central role in this situation. Few men can say that they encountered such adventure at such a young age.

After several more missions with the Merchant Marines, Don enlisted in the Navy where he served his country for thirty-four more years. Now, after having lived eighty-five years, Don can look back on his life and be proud of what he has accomplished. "I have loved well and been loved well. I have raised my sons to be good fathers. I have everything I need. I am not afraid to die." These were some of the precious sentiments he shared with us after a meaningful eighty-fifth birthday on this Patriotic Tour. We have been so blessed to hear his stories and life lessons, and our lives will forever be changed by what this man has shared with us. Our hope is that, at the end of our lives, we can be like Don. We can look back at everything we have gone through and say, we have lived life well, we have everything we need, we can die knowing that we have made a difference.

Kristiana Nordstrom, sophomore
Rick Koretoff, senior

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