Many years ago, when my father was a very young man, he entered the military and made it his life’s career. Often times he would be away for months and then years on end. When he was home he never talked about his “job” and unfortunately I never asked. In my house we grew up with the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. What I did know as I got older and what I took as truth for his entire military career, was that he was a Staff Sergeant in the Army. Which translated into a “desk job. Yes, he was that but long after he was in two wars. He was a way a lot and my Mom didn’t travel with him, which brought it’s own set of problems but that is not what this day is about for me now.
Today is my day to honor him in a way in which I should have done so many years ago. I took care of my Dad when he got sick and then developed severe dementia. It was during that time when I got to know my Dad best and grew to love him. The in between times don’t matter here. After he died, as I was cleaning out his apartment I found all his military papers and photos. Many of the photos have writings on the back with dates and places. It is through those photos that I found out that my Dad was indeed in World War 11 while he was in the Navy stationed in Hawaii. The more telling photo for me though, is the one above. He was a soldier in the Army after leaving the Navy and he was in the field.
I found a few others like the photo above of him with his gear and in the woods. This photo speaks a thousand words to me. He lived a life I could not have imagined. In this photo it is obvious that he does not have a desk job. He is in field gear with helmet on, taking a break, reading a book. Perhaps it’s partly where I got my love of reading although my Mom was a avid reader also. He is buried in the woods, sitting amongst the trees on some kind of stump. Most telling though, is that rifle leaning against that tree, most likely fully loaded and check out those boots…I bet they were made for running. My Father was a soldier, in a war, ready to fight for this country and for me. I never knew that. He never told me about that, but then we never really had time when I was young for too many conversations. Now I know…through his photographs.
So today I honor him for his service. Not as a desk Sargent but as a brave soldier in the field, where taking a lunch hour or a much needed break means stump sitting. I wished I could have told him when he was alive how proud of him I am but then most soldiers don’t look for a lot of praise…they just go out each day and do their duty to God and Country. Now I take care of him and honor him by putting flowers on his grave that sits in a Military field in a beautiful cemetery.
So if you think photos don’t matter…this is testament to the fact that they do. Without my Dad’s photos an entire piece of his life would be missing for me. When you find missing pieces you are able to make sense of a sometimes senseless childhood. I am so grateful for his bag of old photos. They fill in a lot of blank years.
So thank you Dad for your service. I know I’m a bit late with this thank you note but we all know, better late than never. Thank you also for sharing this part of your life with me even though you were a bit late with it. Thank you for holding onto these photos until you knew you wanted me to have them. Maybe you couldn’t tell the stories when you were here but I’m grateful that you left the stories behind for me to figure out. You did well, old man, rest in peace.