Today is Father’s Day! It’s time to make a special effort to honor your Dad and let him know how much you appreciate him. And it does not necessarily need to be your own father whom you admire … anyone in your life that you deem a good dad (brother, uncle, granddad, nephew, etc) would appreciate a shout out from you.
As I wrote a year ago, Father’s Day will always be bittersweet for me. I have much to be thankful for as a father in my own right … three wonderful children all grown and making their way in the world! I’ve already had a stellar Father’s Day as I do every year … as I do every day!
But my own Dad, William Sr. passed away in May 2011 at age 90 just before Father’s Day. It’s the same way I always feel at Mother’s Day … my Mom left us much too young in 1987 just before Mother’s Day. Her unopened Mother’s Day present was sitting in her bedroom waiting for her to open it following her funeral. It’s the reality of life as we watch our parents fade away and we eventually replace them with only ourselves and our memories.
Since I spent all of my adult life wearing a uniform (I became a cadet at age 17 and served 26+ years in the US Army) I normally tend to look at life in a military manner. Right or wrong, that’s my vector and anyone who’s known me for more than 10-minutes understands that.
My Dad served in the Army toward the end of WWII. He was drafted in 1944 or ’45 and took basic training at Camp Blanding, Florida. That was preceded by a tour in Nevada with the Civilian Conservation Corps, the beloved ‘CCC Camp,’ one of many programs established by FDR to find work for starving, unemployed young men (mostly teenagers) during the Great Depression.
Dad spoke to me more of the CCC Camp than he did of his Army life, brief as it may have been. As one of the million soldiers being prepped to invade Japan, he was crossing the Pacific when the Atomic Bombs of Hiroshima and Nagasaki ended the war. He thus ended up in the Philippines as a truck driver in the occupation force that helped the Filipino people rebuild following their devastation at the hands of cruel Japanese brutality.
My Dad was extremely patriotic and a firm supporter of the military but that’s not what defined his life. He was first and foremost a Southern Baptist Preacher, forever associated as Pastor Emeritus with Oak Grove Baptist Church in Colquitt County, Georgia. One of my fondest memories with him revolves around my opportunity to speak at the Oak Grove Homecoming in October 2010 with him attending. It was the last time he ever visited there … possibly the last time he ventured outside his assisted living home … but it was a moment for the Angels!
Dad also spent many years as a letter carrier in Thomasville, Georgia, the career that supported him financially all of his adult life and that he retired from in 1981. But the military connection between us never waned. He loved discussing and debating military issues with me and although he was never faced with combat, he had to endure the loneliness and pain of being separated from his wife and child in a time when family support from the Army was non-existent.
In that regard, I think that his “citizen soldier” mentality is my fondest memory of my Dad and so many others who served with him in the universally acclaimed “Greatest Generation.” They weren’t great warriors skilled in the profession of arms. They … and he … simply answered the call when their country needed them. Many young men barely shaving took a stand and held the line against unrestrained evil in lands they’d never heard of simply because they believed that everybody should be free. That’s the way Washington and Jefferson visualized it back in 1775. It was a value he lived as surely as breathed.
Death is a finality that always seems to take the living by surprise. It is especially noteworthy on cherished days like today. I had a wonderful start in my life thanks to my parents who allowed me to follow my dreams from day #1. I still do and my dreams have expanded as I see them manifest into reality in the lives of my own children.
That’s why Father’s Day is so special to me. The path of my life was set more than 15 years before I was even born by a man who gave me the greatest Father’s Day gift of all time … his name.
Happy Father’s Day, Dad. Thanks for thinking of me and for the gift of wearing your name. I’ll meet you again one day soon on the high ground!