It seems like just yesterday we were loading up in a canoe and paddling around Snow’s Island looking for Indian artifacts. Yea, I was only four, but it seems like just yesterday. I loved being outside with you camping, fishing, and having fun. So many Boy Scout campouts and hikes. Remember the time we backpacked up Shining Rock with Troop 408 and had to turn back because of snow and sleet? Or what about the time you helped me paint the DAV building in Darlington to finish my Eagle Scout project? Those were the best times.
I was young, but I still remember going to visit you in the hospital. We drove all the way from Florence to Columbia to visit. As we sat together outside at the picnic table, you and I built a bird house. Mom called it a Veteran’s Hospital. I remember it was a special place for people who served in the military. PTSD they said. It was a pretty new term back in the 80’s. Back then I had no idea what it meant. I just knew you stayed to yourself and had trouble sleeping. Mom says you were never the same after Vietnam. Most of the soldiers weren’t. It was a terrible war, but so is every war. It was hard for people to tell that you were sick, but we knew you weren’t yourself. We knew you suffered a silent pain as you laid awake every night with the images of the men you left behind on the battle field.
Memorial Day is a day to remember the fallen. Dad, you may have come home, but I remember you today. You didn’t died in battle, but you left part of who you were in the rice fields of Vietnam.
Today as we visit your grave, we grieve again and remember. But, we also come to say, “thank you.” Thank you for being our dad. Thank you for teaching me what it means to be a man of my word. To be a man who follows Christ. To be a man who provides for his family. Thank you for teaching me how to work hard. Thank you for teaching me to respect mom and love her well. Thank you for giving up so much to give Bonnie and me everything…especially our educations. We wish you could see your five grandchildren today who will be running and playing around the headstones at the National Cemetery in Florence. They would have loved to know you. I can’t believe it’s been almost 11 years since you went to be with The Lord. Seems like just yesterday.
There are many days I wish I could talk with you. I’m not ashamed anymore. I’m not afraid to tell people you had PTSD. I’m proud of you dad. You gave up your life and so much more for the freedom we all enjoy. Because you and millions of other brave men and women served our country, I can be a minister. I can openly share the Gospel of Jesus Christ in this country without fear of impressment or death. I just wish I had told you how proud I was of you when you were here.
The medals in this picture are from your uniform. I framed them after you died and hung them in my office at church. They serve as a daily reminder to me of the sacrifice you made for our country, for mom, for Bonnie and for me. Thank you dad. We will never forget. We will always remember you. Semper Fi! (always faithful)