When I was at my brother’s house in SC in April, I stayed in their guest room one night and above the bed was this framed picture of my daddy.
My daddy, his Army medals and flag that draped his coffin when he died in April, 2002
This was a gift to my brother from Lois and I just love how she thinks to do these sort of things.
My dad never talked to me about his time in the Army, but then really honestly, we never talked too much about anything of substance. That’s a big regret of mine to this day.
So I looked up what the medals mean and found this:
Army Good Conduct Medal – Efficiency Honor Fidelity:
Awarded on a selective basis to a soldier who distinguishes himself by his exemplary behavior, efficiency and fidelity in active Military service.
American Defense Service Medal – recognizing active duty between September 8, 1939 and December 7, 1941, before America’s entry into the Second World War but during the initial years of the European conflict.
World War II Victory Medal – Commemorates military service during World War II and is awarded to any member of the United States military who served on active duty, or as a reservist, between December 7, 1941 and December 31, 1946.
American Campaign Medal – To recognize those service members who had performed duty in the American Theater of Operations during World War II.
So I know the meaning behind the medals, but nothing about the experiences of the man who earned them. I missed the chance to have learned more about the real man instead of just accepting the facade he put up most of the time we saw each other. Only once or twice can I ever recall having anything that could be called a meaningful conversation with my dad – where we revealed something of the usually hidden side of ourselves.
When I was in New Orleans visiting him a couple of years before he died – he had been in and out of the hospital as they were trying to figure out what was making him so sick. That was when he was originally diagnosed with kidney cancer. At one point after rushing him to the emergency room, we were waiting for the doctor to return after taking more tests. He told me he wasn’t afraid of dying, but he did have regrets for some of the things he missed in his life, mostly having to do with not being more affectionate with us kids. He encouraged me to keep following my travel dreams and not to let anyone talk me out of it because it sounded “crazy.” He was obviously exhausted, but was still trying to talk to me so “I wouldn’t just be sitting there bored.” I went over to his bedside, began stroking the top of his brow and forehead, and told him gently to stop worrying about me – to just relax, close his eyes and go to sleep.
He later told my mother what a comfort that was to him and what a tremendous help I had been during that time. So when it was my turn to say my final goodbye at the funeral home, I stroked his head and whispered that I hoped he realized now that he had a higher perspective that we would see each other later and we’d have a good laugh about it all and really get to know each other.
I love you, daddy.