If you met my dad, you probably would have as hard a time as I do imagining him manning a helicopter under fire in Vietnam. He’s a gentle person, someone who voiced prayers of thanksgiving over our chickens before slaughtering them, the most violent thing I think I’ve ever seen him do. He’s patient, a person who values hard work of both mind and body. My father is innovative. He has high standards and never does things “just because,” but takes action based on whether or not it’s the right thing to do.
My dad taught fifth grade…and sixth grade on the condition that they give him the exact same class that he’d had as fifth graders. They adored him and his unconventional classroom. Nobody gets off easy around my dad; he’s a ruthless tease and often intimidated his students and my friends by forcing them to think and have opinions.
He taught at a juvenile detention center, showing Shawshank Redemption, which, if you’re not familiar, is a film about breaking out of prison. It’s also about the power of hope and friendship, lessons those kids might never have heard if not for my father.
My father is a carpenter, a gardener, a preacher, a leader, a hero.
He was awarded the Bronze Star in Vietnam. If you ask him why he was given the medal he’ll tell you, “For being stupid” and leave it at that. I find that pretty fishy, considering the fact that he’s the most intelligent person I’ve ever met.
My dad is a veteran. He’s one of thousands and thousands of women and men who have sacrificed and “been stupid” for our country. I’m always pretty emotional on Veteran’s Day. Having grown up in a family with military history and later living near Fort Hood, working with and teaching the children of active duty military personnel I’ve been privileged to see sacrifice played out in real life. There are no words to describe the depth and essence of the sacrifices made by the members of our armed forces. Thank you seems so little, so cliche. But it’s all I’ve got.
So, to my father, my brother, my cousins…
My friends, the co-workers, the parents of former students…
The kids I taught who have since enlisted (there are almost too many to count)…
Thank you. I really, really mean it from the bottom of my heart.
And, Daddy, you truly are my hero.