• strict warning: Non-static method view::load() should not be called statically in /home/glencoenews/www/www/sites/all/modules/views/views.module on line 906.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_handler_argument::init() should be compatible with views_handler::init(&$view, $options) in /home/glencoenews/www/www/sites/all/modules/views/handlers/views_handler_argument.inc on line 744.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_handler_filter::options_validate() should be compatible with views_handler::options_validate($form, &$form_state) in /home/glencoenews/www/www/sites/all/modules/views/handlers/views_handler_filter.inc on line 607.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_handler_filter::options_submit() should be compatible with views_handler::options_submit($form, &$form_state) in /home/glencoenews/www/www/sites/all/modules/views/handlers/views_handler_filter.inc on line 607.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_handler_filter_node_status::operator_form() should be compatible with views_handler_filter::operator_form(&$form, &$form_state) in /home/glencoenews/www/www/sites/all/modules/views/modules/node/views_handler_filter_node_status.inc on line 13.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_handler_filter_term_node_tid::value_validate() should be compatible with views_handler_filter::value_validate($form, &$form_state) in /home/glencoenews/www/www/sites/all/modules/views/modules/taxonomy/views_handler_filter_term_node_tid.inc on line 302.
  • strict warning: Non-static method view::load() should not be called statically in /home/glencoenews/www/www/sites/all/modules/views/views.module on line 906.
  • strict warning: Non-static method view::load() should not be called statically in /home/glencoenews/www/www/sites/all/modules/views/views.module on line 906.
  • strict warning: Non-static method view::load() should not be called statically in /home/glencoenews/www/www/sites/all/modules/views/views.module on line 906.
  • strict warning: Non-static method view::load() should not be called statically in /home/glencoenews/www/www/sites/all/modules/views/views.module on line 906.
  • strict warning: Non-static method view::load() should not be called statically in /home/glencoenews/www/www/sites/all/modules/views/views.module on line 906.
  • strict warning: Non-static method view::load() should not be called statically in /home/glencoenews/www/www/sites/all/modules/views/views.module on line 906.
  • strict warning: Non-static method view::load() should not be called statically in /home/glencoenews/www/www/sites/all/modules/views/views.module on line 906.
  • strict warning: Non-static method view::load() should not be called statically in /home/glencoenews/www/www/sites/all/modules/views/views.module on line 906.

Here’s to my veteran hero — my Dad

I remember looking over my mother’s shoulder one evening — this was way back in the early 1970s — as she was writing a letter.
“My Darling,” it started. She was writing to my dad, and it was the first time I had any indication that my parents had a relationship that didn’t include their children.
That was as far as I read. I felt like I was prying into something private that I had no business being involved in.
My father was a Navy careerist. He spent over 20 years in the Navy, retiring in 1973. He served during the Korean and Vietnam wars on aircraft carriers. In times of peace, he also served on ships and on military bases in the Supply Corps.
When he was away at sea — which could be for as short of time as a couple of weeks to as long as a year — my mother wrote to him faithfully every night after supper, and he wrote to her faithfully every day.
This was in the days before Skype and e-mail and when a domestic long distance phone call, much less an overseas call, cost a king’s ransom. Overseas mail service was slow, and sometimes days or even weeks would go by before we got mail, and his letters would arrive in a bundle of airmail envelopes.
Most of my perspective of military life comes from being the child of a Navy officer.
My father rarely talked of his experiences in the service. In fact, the only story he ever related to me was about when he heard about my birth.
He was on an aircraft carrier in the Mediterranean at the time, and my small-town, shy mother was pregnant back in Virginia. Her own mother came to stay with her to help with my older sister and household chores during the final couple of weeks of Mom’s pregnancy.
In September of that year, Hurricane Rebecca hit the east coast, and my mother claims that the change in atmospheric pressure sent every pregnant woman on the eastern seaboard into labor. For a time, there was speculation that I would be born in the hallway of an overcrowded maternity ward.
My father, upon receiving the telegram announcing my birth, danced around the flight deck and “whooped and hollered” until his shipmates thought he had lost his mind. They shared in his joy, however, as he began passing around cigars and sharing the news.
My mother never talked about Dad’s service much, either, although several years ago, she did tell us about a day on that Virginia naval base when sirens sounded, and every seaman grabbed a pre-packed duffel bag and waited outside quarters until they were picked up by troop-bearing trucks.
Their wives and children, meanwhile, watched in frightened silence from front steps and yards as their husbands and fathers were spirited away.
It wasn’t until days later that the families learned that the men had been summoned for the Bay of Pigs invasion in Cuba, ordered by President John F. Kennedy.
My dad was careful to separate his military life from his family life. When he was stationed on bases, he would come home in the evening, shed his uniform for casual pants and a T-shirt or sweatshirt, and sit down to dinner. After supper, he’d wrestle with his kids on the living floor, play ping pong with us or help us with homework until bedtime.
But I did have glimpses of his Navy life. I remember well how proud I was when he donned his dress whites, complete with braids, medals, insignia and a sword, for inspection. Or how enlisted men would pause and salute my father as we walked around the base.
And I can remember how we paused and stood at attention each evening as “Taps” was played over the base’s public address, signaling the end of the day.
And I remember well standing on navy piers, either waving my father off on another cruise, or scanning crowds of returning sailors and officers for his familiar face.
My father retired from the Navy in 1973 at the age of 42, and my parents moved to Minnesota to be closer to family. He began work in the private sector, and our lives became that of most people with permanent homes, 8 to 5 jobs and evening activities.
In 1979, he was diagnosed with leukemia, and spent most of the next several months as a patient at St. Mary’s Hospital in Rochester.
He lost his hair to chemo and his once-athletic body became wasted and withered. As the end neared, he spent more and more time staring at the ceiling or the walls, and less time focused on his family.
One day, I stood in the hallway as a nurse changed his bedding. On her way out, she stopped near me and offered me some insight:
“I know you’re losing your dad, and that’s really hard,” she said. “But he is losing everything he loves, and he is grieving, too.”
And I’m sure that as he lay there, he was thinking that once again, he was leaving my mother behind with three children to raise. And this time, he wouldn’t be able to offer her encouragement and love in daily letters. This time, he wouldn’t be coming home.
He died a week after Veterans Day that year, and a snowstorm followed shortly after, very similar to the one that hit Minnesota on Monday.
Memories of his funeral have blurred in the years since, but one moment stands out crisp and clear: a military honor guard folding the flag that covered his coffin and handing it to my mother. To this day, I cannot look at any flag-draped coffin without tears coming to my eyes.
For those of us who believe in an afterlife, we know that my Dad’s final voyage really wasn’t final. Thirty-five years after his death, he still appears in my dreams, not in the wasted body that marked the end of his days, but in a crisp, summer-tan uniform, his blue eyes sparkling in his suntanned face.
So thanks, Dad, for your dedicated years to the Navy and for your dedication to your family. You will always be my hero.