Let me tell you a little about my Dad. He was a proud United States Army Veteran who served in Vietnam. He returned home from that war to hatred and dishonor, along with thousands of other veterans in uniform. Still, he pressed on, and served as a Drill Instructor, which was his great passion. He was good at it, too. I can still hear the drill instructor tone of his voice.
If only I really could hear his voice again.
Let me tell you a little about me. I consider myself to be strong, or as my Dad would say, I have grit. He raised me to not be shaken easily, to shake hands like you mean it, and look someone in the eye. He taught me to “pull myself up by the bootstraps,” as his mother taught him, when the going got tough.
If only he could give me another pep talk now.
But, this day is approaching. Tomorrow. When the sun rises tomorrow, it will be one year since my Dad passed away. One year since I last whispered “I love you, Daddy,” in his ear, moments before he took his last breath. One year since I told him thank you for everything he had done for his country and for me. And one year since my life as I knew it crumbled at my feet.
See, I don’t think I knew just how important a part he played in my life until May 24, 2016. I loved my Dad as a child, but as an adult, I worshiped him. Our talks, about anything and everything, his stories of his own childhood, being the baby of eleven children, his sage advice, his heartfelt concern for me or my daughter when we were sick, his hugs, his unwavering support, encouragement, and jokes that always made me laugh.
He was my hero.
He still is.
I miss him so much it physically hurts.
We buried my Dad in a true military funeral and I was presented with what is now an irreplaceable treasure — the flag off of his casket. He would say that I should just imagine what the mothers who lost their sons or wives who lost their husbands felt like when they received those flags. He always had a way of making me see other perspectives.
A couple of days after the burial, it was Memorial Day. A day that was spent at the grave of a proud Veteran, who loved his country and loved his family. The last year has seemed like a blur without him, almost like I am waiting for him to come back. Or that maybe if I replay his quick fight in the hospital, that the outcome might be different. But, it’s not going to be.
So I am sharing this with you for two reasons:
One is that the bond between a Daddy and his little girl is irreplaceable and should be nurtured, no matter the feelings between the parents. There is so much I wish I could go back and change, but the last 10 years with my Dad were years that I will hold dear for the rest of my life. But I lost my hero last year. And it just does something to you. It changes you. And it is a pain that is indescribable if you haven’t lived it. So if you’re reading this and have lost your Daddy, your hero, I pray for your heart.
The other reason is this: Memorial Day is just a few days away. Would you do me a favor, if you don’t already, and thank a Veteran? There are so many other men and women who have gladly put that uniform on and fought for our country, who didn’t get the thanks they deserved. Especially those Vietnam Vets like my Daddy. The next time you see one, remember my Dad.