A Love Reunited
Navy veteran Ed Bates can’t help but break into a grin when he chats about his late wife Freda, a former Marine. The two met in 1945 in Washington, D.C., as World War II neared its end. During their marriage of 57-plus years, they discussed taking a trip back to the city where they first met, but Freda passed away in 2003 before they had the chance.
Ed, a former Madera County sheriff who taught criminology at Fresno State, was determined to fulfill his promise. He was invited to join the seventh Central Valley Honor Flight to visit veterans memorials in the nation’s capitol, and he carried a large, framed photo of Freda with him from site to site.
The honor flight took 46 World War II veterans and 21 Korean War veterans from Fresno to Washington, D.C. After seven such flights, roughly 475 Valley veterans have visited memorials in less than two years. The first flight was October 2013.
Bates, a 1977 Fresno State graduate (1980 master’s) who will turn 90 years old in November, shared the meaning behind his Central Valley Honor Flight experience in the following handwritten letter.
by Edward Bryant Bates
I was in Washington, D.C. in June 1945 and the war was in full engagement. For reasons unknown the Navy was holding up my transfer to a very secret employment in interior China. A soldier and I were in a Pepsi-Cola service center when we saw the two Marine ladies hesitate at the entrance. “Oh my God — I hope they come in.” My prayer was answered. They took the only two seats left, at our table.
Corporal Freda June Ball, USMC (women’s) sat across from me. She was the girl of my dreams!
They stated they were waiting for a movie to open … and of course we said that was where we were headed. At the entrance to the movie, I realized I had spent all my cash the previous night with a Navy wave! I had to borrow $2 from her to gain our admission. I promised to repay her; that I had money at my quarters. I promised to take her to a really nice restaurant. She reluctantly agreed. That meeting led to the two of us exploring all of the many museums and monuments in Washington, D.C. We were allowed to climb the interior of the Washington Monument. After two weeks Freda believed I was a deserter; so I told her of my orders sending me away on a mission.
In early August 1945 my orders arrived and hope of a formal engagement was dashed — no one knew when or if I would return. She kissed me goodbye, and I boarded a Navy plane. At Calcutta, India, I was ordered off the plane. We learned a single bomb had destroyed one city in Japan and another would be dropped within a week. I returned to Washington. A call to Freda was my first priotity. Now I knew why my orders had been delayed for almost three months. We were engaged — met again at my hometown, after our honorable discharges, and on March 9, 1946, we were married. We were for 57 ½ years until she left us for paradise, where she awaits me.
The Honor Flight to D.C. in June 2015 had to be an act of God. We met in D.C. in June. Her middle name is June; so her birthday was there in D.C. I carried her photograph with me; in my lap and next to my heart the entire tour. The Honor Flight took us to all the monuments Freda and I had walked. At the Tomb of the Unknown Solider — tears came to me. As a Marine stationed at Henderson Wall, at the base of the National Cemetery; she had patrolled that very place as a MP. The Honor Flight must have been allowed by higher authority. Our love was renewed even more. A reporter seeing the picture asked me what my first words would be when we met again. After due recollection, it will be: “I love you Freda.”