I wanted to write about my dad today because he was a vet – served 30 years in the Air Force – and today is Memorial Day.
I’ve planned longer blog entry about the most wonderful man in my life besides my uncle, my husband, and my cousin Kris (and my grand dads). I have been privileged to be surrounded by amazing, supportive men. But the jewel in that crown will always be my dad.
In the small town in Alabama where he spent the majority of his formative years he apprenticed with the local country doctor there stitching up people, birthing babies, and going with the doctor on his rounds (back in those days they made house calls). At heart he was a healer.
Then Vietnam derailed his dreams. Despite having been accepted to medical school (which should have garnered a deferment), he got drafted and shipped off to war. The Army wanted him, but he went to the Air Force recruitment office and signed up instead.
When they asked him what he wanted to do, he explained he wanted to be a doctor and they said they’d see about making him a medic after he took some tests. He scored too high and they placed him in military intelligence, which he always said was an oxymoron.
They sent him to ‘Nam where he spent his time in places that didn’t exist, doing things that never happened. One such event that never happened was a mission to remove “non-existent files, from a non-existent place” (as he always told it) during the Tet Offensive. He tried to put a dismissive take on it, and wasn’t allowed for years to talk about it. He could have had a purple heart after it was all declassified, but he never applied for it.
Since he always made light of it, even joking that at one point he’d almost gotten blown up by a grenade. He woke up with bandages on his wrists from shrapnel and a manhole cover-sized gap in his flak jacket. I never knew just how bad it had been for him.
I only knew after he’d finally confessed how bad it had been to my husband. That my sweet, loving, gentle father, who only wanted to heal people, had to shoot someone in the face. How that must have ripped at his soul. And he never told me. I don’t know if he thought I would love him less, or lose respect for him. None of which would ever happen.
I write this on this day of remembrance of our veterans, past, present, and future. I thank them where, and whenever I meet them. Thank you for your service.