May 26, 2009

The Soldier

Almost 13 years ago, I stood between rows of white granite and marble gravestones that ran in perfect lines over rolling valleys. I was at Jefferson Barracks Cemetery in St. Louis, Missouri. My wife and I had just gotten married in Vegas on Memorial Day weekend and now we were there to bury my father.
I did not know my father very well. When I left home I was 11 years old and the years before that are somewhat hazy. My father had been on active duty in those earlier years. He was stationed in Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and eventually came home after he and his brother got in a car accident while he was on furlough one weekend.
When my father recovered, he still continued to work as retired military at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson, Arizona, where we grew up. I do not know what his full detail duty was, but he always said that he was a warehouse man. Whatever his duties were, he was in charge of everything at his post and the people who worked for him admired and respected him. That was clear to us growing up as he had many friends visiting over the years.
My mom would tell me years later that he was a big shot when he was in the service. He had a Purple Heart and a Bronze Medal. He had saved lives.
The other day I found a letter from one of my dad's best friends when I was growing up. At the end there was a P.S.: "Your Dad had an influence on all who knew him for he had mastered the communications with the rank-and-file people. He was also the truest American hero if you really knew his record. Not many made it through what he did and the trips he took while serving his country."
I do not know my father in this way. He was a different man at home. Quiet and reserved — and sometimes very harsh.
I do not know why he had a Purple Heart or a Bronze Medal. I had never heard about it until he had passed away and my mother never spoke of things like this. She told Lois one day while we were standing in her bedroom and she never explained. Later she said that she would tell us about it on another day. That never happened. It is another of many unanswered questions I have.
I don't know much about my father. I know he left home when he was 16 and joined the army. He lied about his age and they accepted him into the U.S. military. It was his life and he loved it. He served in the Korean war and Viet Nam. He met my mom in Germany and married her there. When they were getting ready to catch the boat to the states my mom and dad split up to finish some last-minute things. He had to take care of some paperwork and she went and did something else. She came back and she had missed the boat. They united three months later. She joked that she never missed anything after that.
Without ever really knowing this man, I can say that he was indeed a true patriot. He was born to be a soldier and countryman. He lived his whole life this way. In this regard I had the most utmost respect for him. When my mom died in 2002 we returned to this military cemetery and her ashes were buried next to his. It was in April and we stood under an awning as it rained. My two heroes laid to rest for eternity.
I had to work on my anniversary yesterday and Memorial Day kind of slid right past me. If I had posted, this is what I would have said.


Laoch of Chicago said...

Well said.

kristine said...

This is a very beautiful, moving tribute. Thanks for sharing it.

On the weekend we went to the Purple Heart Museum in New Windsor New York. It's a special place. They are trying to compile information about everyone that received a purple heart. I don't know too much about it but you may want to give them a call - it's a very special place.

Something Happened Somewhere Turning said...

LoC, Thank you very much

Kristine, I will have to check that out. Thanks :-)

Bj in Dallas said...

Our stories are somewhat simular, and I really was moved by your post. My dad that I barely knew, only because he died when I was 9, was military. I found out so much from my mom through the years that made me just think 'wow'. He had so much security clearance during the Korean war (he was in Greece) he couldnt' contact mother, but other people would contact her periodically and let her know he was still ok. He retired and taught at Fort Sill and that is where I was born. The miliary cemetaries are so regal and so reverant and I havent' been to Fort Silll in so long. But I can always walk right to his headstone, no matter how much time has gone by.

Thanks for sharing.

Debbie said...

My husband was in the military long enough for me to know that many military men have two sides to them - one that their family rarely, if ever, sees. Your dad must have been remarkable.

Sunshine said...

Very nicely done.. Every word shows how much you love your dad....Very well written,,,

God Bless

Something Happened Somewhere Turning said...

Debbie, I believe that two sides thing. I wish we had spent more time together getting to know each other.

Sunshine, Thanks... :-)


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