Learning more about my father

November 12, 2022

So I got a text from my dad on Friday night. “Hi. When you have some time, you might want to go to YouTube and search for ‘Mid-Continent Libray Veterans Salute.’ The first item that comes up should be a picture of me for a video that the library made for its Veteran’s Day program. There are four of us on it.”

I decided to take him up on his suggestion and found the video. For the next hour, I got lost in the stories of these four men, one of which was my own father. I had probably heard bits of some of this over the years. When I was younger, I watched slideshows of my dad’s time in the Navy. I think most of those pictures were from the tour of duty he did in the Mediterranean. He did not share much about his experience in Vietnam when I was younger. I found out a lot more through the years as I asked him questions or as conversations turned toward those days in his life.

It was very meaningful for me to hear his story through this video. I knew that he joined the Navy so that he could choose how he served in Vietnam. I don’t know if I have ever heard the part about how my mom asked him if he could drop bombs on people from a high altitude and that role that her question had in him pursuing flying helicopters rather than planes.

I don’t think I had ever heard the story of how the Navy had made some changes that led to my dad spending most of his Naval career in places away from Southeast Asia. I definitely had a sense of gratitude that things worked out as they did and that I grew up knowing my father. I have one friend whose dad was a pilot and was MIA and then later declared KIA. I know my life would be very different if my father had not been around and been involved in my life the way that he was.

My daughter asked me this morning if I would be drafted if there were to be a war in the future. I told her that I am too old, but that her brother was now in that age range.

I remember having a bit of a scare in my life in the summer of 1990. I was returning from a life-changing summer in the country of Hungary. I was returning home via Heathrow Airport when I heard the news about the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. I wondered what these events might mean to my future and if I would have to face similar decisions that my father did with Vietnam. I still felt that trepidation in the weeks leading up to the American response and invasion of Iraq.

I never had to face that choice. And I hope that my son nor my daughters have to in the future. I felt a bit of uneasiness last summer after Russia invaded Ukraine and wondered if that act might lead to a more significant conflict that my son might get pulled into.

I am proud of my dad and proud to be his son. I am aware of the privilege that he enjoyed in being able to make a choice in how he served during the war. Most of the other veterans interviewed in that video did not have that same choice. I am grateful that my dad survived that war and that I had the privilege of knowing my father and having him involved in my life.

It is amazing that after all these years, there are still so many new things to learn about my father.

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