Following their lead
Published: May 29, 2012
A few weeks ago, I wrote about the legacy my father gave to me, the photos and other mementos of his service in Vietnam. The column resonated with many readers, some of whom wrote to honor their own military fathers. Here are their words:
This could have almost been my story. I, too, am a military spouse. My husband has proudly served the Army for 21 years now.
On May 1st, I lit a candle in remembrance of my father who left this world four years ago. When he fell ill, I had the privilege [of] tending to him. Being the proud man that he was, I know it was the hardest thing he had probably done, but it was the least I could [do] for him.
Every morning I would drive over to the hospital to shave him and have breakfast together. It soon became my favorite time with him. He shared many stories over a cup of oatmeal, some from my early childhood years, and others of his military career as a medic.
What a proud soldier he was. He also served in Vietnam and Korea. Shortly before he passed, he handed me a box. In it were six reels of 8mm [film]. Memories of me and my brother growing up. [Dad] knew that I had been longing for them.
Among his belongings, we also found a metal lock box full of slides and tattered photos of his days serving his country abroad, his draft card, dog tags, and so much more. What peace it brought us when we looked through these precious items. We laughed some and cried some, but it gave us a glimpse of the father we really never knew.
We transferred to Germany a month after he passed ... Just a few months after arriving in Germany, my husband’s unit was tasked flag duty for the closing ceremonies of the Army base in Wurzburg. How ironic, as this was were my father was stationed in the ’70s, the place where I had so many childhood memories of running around, carefree and happy.
As I watched the American and German flags slowly shimmy down the flagpole, I couldn’t help but think of my dad. I wish I could turn back the hands of time and sit beside him just one more time as he told his stories. I wish I could ask him about the pictures we found. Sadly, that will never be.
Thank you for sharing your story and reminding me so much of my own father. I hope you will enjoy mine as well. Funny, how similar life can be.
— Angela C. Bolinger
What a wonderful article!!! My dad was killed in Vietnam in 1970. How I wish I had just one letter.
— June Herring
I am blessed to still have my father with us. He is 88 years old and served in the Army at the end of WWII. Although I have seen some old photos and movies of his short military career, I realize there are probably more stories I haven’t heard. On my next trip to Colorado to visit him, I’m going to sit down and ask him to share more of his past with me. I realize I won’t have him around much longer. Thanks, Terri, for sharing this story about your dad. It prompted me to learn more about mine.
— Jan Richardson
My brother and I lost our healthy, active dad far too suddenly in 2007. He was an Army helicopter pilot in Vietnam, and while I treasure the photographs and documents from his military service, there are so many questions I’d love to ask him.
My brother followed his footsteps and is currently serving in Afghanistan as a Kiowa helicopter pilot. It kills me that Dad isn’t here to talk to him. He’d understand what my brother is going through far more deeply than my mother or I ever could. But we were so lucky to have him, and we’re still following his lead.
— Laura Fry