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Roses, messages honor fallen fathers at Vietnam memorial

By JOE GROMELSKI | STARS AND STRIPES Published: June 22, 2009

WASHINGTON — Robert M. Worley II was only 12 years old when his father, Air Force Maj. Gen. Robert Franklin Worley, was killed in Vietnam. "Old enough to know and understand the dangers of war, but definitely not old enough to know how to grow up without my dad," he said.

But over the years, Worley came to realize the impact the man he now considers "my role model and my hero" had on his life.

Worley is now a two-star general himself, serving as director of programs and deputy chief of staff for strategic plans and programs at Air Force headquarters. He told a Father’s Day gathering Sunday at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial that every name on the Wall and every headstone at Arlington Cemetery represents countless relatives whose lives were "changed forever by the sacrifice of one who gave his life for the ideals of freedom and democracy."

In what has become an annual tradition at the memorial, relatives and friends of the fallen sent messages that were attached to 2,000 roses placed at the Wall for Father’s Day. There were red roses for the people who died in Vietnam, yellow for those still missing in action, and white honoring those who have died in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The messages told the story of memories that haven’t faded, even after 40 years or more.

"Dad, never a day goes by without you being in our hearts and thoughts," said one message. "Your ultimate sacrifice will never be forgotten ... today we celebrate you. We miss you so much."

Other messages told of the success enjoyed by children and grandchildren they never knew, and of secrets shared with those left behind.

"Dear Dad, thank you for all those secret sodas. Don’t worry, I won’t tell Mom. Love, your son, Larry."

And another message reminds us of how young some of the fallen were when they died: "Honoring and remembering all the men who never got to be a father."

Among those placing roses was Mark Dvorak of Baldwin, Md., who flew on an OV-1 Mohawk observation aircraft. He came home from Vietnam on Father’s Day, and even the fact that his 9-month-old son "wanted nothing to do with me" couldn’t keep it from being "my best Father’s Day ever."

Second-best, he said, was last year, when his younger son joined him in placing roses at the Wall.


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