Friday, July 4, 2008

A History

(Part I of my grant proposal. This is the rationale for writing a history of my father. This is all a personal quest).

News reporter Tom Brokaw wrote a book called “The Greatest Generation,” a tribute to the men and women who lived and served our country in a variety of ways during WWII. When I first heard of his book, I felt an immediate and emotional connection. Yes, I said. They were the greatest generation. I did not feel this way because I knew so many of these individuals. I knew it was true because of just one man, my father.

My father was my greatest hero when I was a child and he continues to be in my adult life. Over the years, my father has recounted bits and pieces of his military history to family members. Some of the stories are filled with humor, some are filled with sadness. He always laughs when he talks about the time my mother traveled a long distance to visit him when he was on temporary duty. Dad ended up being restricted to quarters for some mischievous activity and his buddy had to entertain mom for the weekend. My mother would just roll her eyes when he laughed telling this story. There are other stories he tells with a heavy heart, such as breaking the news of soldiers’ deaths to their families and accompanying their bodies home from war.

I am incredibly proud of my father for the obstacles he has overcome throughout his life, always as a “good soldier.” My father is the 12th of 13 children. He grew up as the son of a butcher in Sanford, Maine; dropped out of school at age sixteen shortly after both parents died and later joined the U.S. Army. He eventually earned a G.E.D. and rose through the ranks to retire as a Lieutenant Colonel (there were a few demotions along the way). Today, an enlisted man without a college education would be hard-pressed to repeat this feat.

My father’s example of commitment, loyalty and duty has spoken loudly to those who know him. The last twenty-two years of retirement, years meant for travel, golf and family, have been spent instead caring for a daughter who tragically sustained a head injury in a car accident and for a wife who suffers from dementia. He has never once wavered in his commitment to their care. When encouraged to take time for himself, his response is always, “You don’t leave a soldier behind.”

I want to write about him. About ten years or so ago, my father received a phone call from a man who had served under my dad’s command. They were reminiscing and catching up about times and people they remembered. The man commented on my father’s rise through the ranks. My father’s humble response was to say he got some lucky breaks. “Lucky, hell!” the man responded, “You were a damn good soldier.” Hence, the title of the short story. (And also the reason for the title of this blog).


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