Veterans’ Day with Dad

Today, the United States and many other countries honor their military veterans. What began as a commemoration of the end of the Great War became a time to honor all veterans when it turned out that “the war to end all wars” sadly was not.

When I was growing up, it seemed that most of the men I knew were veterans. My dad served as a SeaBee ( US Navy Construction Battalion) in both World War II and the Korean Conflict. Because WWII involved so many people, most of my friends’ fathers and uncles had served, too. There were a few women who had served as well, but there were not many opportunities for them in the military at that time. Perhaps because so many had served, these veterans did not tend to talk much about their service, choosing instead to just about building their peacetime lives.

I also knew some Vietnam vets. In my rural area, the Vietnam vets were treated respectfully, but sadly we saw on the news that in other places they were unjustly vilified for an unpopular war. When I was a child, the draft was still ongoing, which led some men to become teachers solely to escape being drafted, as teaching was a protected profession. While some went on to become fine teachers, some of these men should never have become teachers and did a poor job of it for thirty years until they could retire. I have experienced this legacy as both a student and a parent.

The US military has been all-volunteer for the last several decades. In contrast to my dad’s generation when a large percentage of young adult males served in the military, now only a tiny percentage of eligible men and women serve. I can count on my fingers the number of people I know from our circle of friends, neighbors, and my spouse’s co-workers who are currently serving, including a high-school classmate of my daughter’s – and daughter of one of my husband’s co-workers – who was a top-ranked cadet at West Point. Meanwhile, the strains of thirteen years of war have fallen on a small number of military personnel, including National Guard troops, and their families. I don’t have an answer for this problem, but it does – or should – weigh heavily on the national consciousness and conscience.

Today, I’ll be celebrating at a lunch with my dad at a local restaurant that is honoring vets with a free meal to thank them for their service. It’s ironic that after decades of not making a big deal about their military service that so much recognition has more recently come to the veterans of World War II. My dad often wears a SeaBee cap when he goes out and receives thanks from passersby or fellow store customers. Once his cap even led to a pay it forward situation.

The ranks of World War II veterans have thinned considerably with time. With so few people currently serving in the military, in seventy years there will be hardly any veterans my dad’s age.

He will turn ninety in March.

I wish peace, security, respect, and good health to all veterans, in the US and around the world. Thank you for your service.

Thanks, Dad.

Father’s Day

In the United States, today is Father’s Day.

Many of my Facebook friends are also middle-aged and have been posting photos of their dads, with messages about how much they miss them. It has brought home to me how fortunate I am to still have my father here and nearby to celebrate with today.

It’s not that he is young; he’s 89.

It’s not that he hasn’t had health issues, including three different cancer diagnoses and a double bypass.

It’s not that he has a great family history. His father and all three of his siblings who made it into their 70’s have been afflicted with Alzheimer’s.

Yet, my dad has managed to bounce back from illness, stay sharp, and keep active.

At least a good share of that is helped by my mom. They exercise together and she keeps any eye on his diet. They are careful to make all their doctor visits and lab tests and to take their medications properly. They laugh often. They stayed engaged with their community.

Most of all, they have been there for me and my sisters and our families, no matter how scattered we were.

I have been the luckiest daughter, though, because my parents retired near us, twenty-five years ago this month. I can’t imagine how life would have been without them nearby for all but three years of my elder daughter’s and all of my younger daughter’s lives.

My dad does follow my blog by email, so he will see this post.

Happy Father’s Day, Dad! I hope you enjoy the fresh strawberry pie we have chilling in the fridge for after dinner.