My Daddy turned 91 on May 18th. He was a Marine in World War II, lied about his age, joined when he was 17. He drove an amphitractor troop carrier, porting men from the ships to the beach during the major battles of Saipan, Tinian and Iwo Jima. When that iconic photo of the Marines raising the flag on Iwo Jima was taken, he was there watching. Only three of the six Marines raising that flag made it through the next few days.
Most of my father’s battalion was killed, buddies from all over the country who would never see home again. He related that one of the only reasons he made it was a mortar going off near his tractor that concussed the machine, causing the heavy hatch of the tractor to fall on his head, knocking him back down inside as the tractor was thrown over. A photo of some of his buddies and him in front of his heavy tractor laying on its side has been hanging in my parents’ kitchen as long as I can remember.
A fierce family man, he has dedicated his life to work, he thrives on it but, as hard as he works, he has always been quick to give his hard-earned money away to those in need, especially his family. He has never let any of us five kids down, a true loving Daddy. Some advice he gave me: “Be a friend because you’re a friend, don’t expect something in return, not even their friendship, people don’t owe you anything.” He wouldn’t understand the Entitlement Generation.
Jovial and friendly, he loves a good laugh, but his movies of choice are old Westerns. I’ve watched a lot of them with him lately, which makes me realize how much society has changed. No matter the Western, the themes are similar: Good always defeats evil, and the credit goes to God; honor and duty come first; you never desert family; giving is more important than getting, even if what you’re giving is your life. Those are the principles that fashioned my father’s world, and the reasons why they’re called the Greatest Generation.
His is the America I long for, the America that truly was a “Shining City On A Hill,” the gift his generation and the generations that came before him and fashioned who he is passed down to us. It’s there, in our blood, too. We can have it again, but only if we understand it takes God, hard work, sacrifice, determination and the understanding nobody owes us anything. We’ve been given America, that’s enough.
My Daddy died a little before 4AM this morning, Wednesday, June 14, 2017. He was a fine, honorable, good man and a wonderful father, and I loved him deeply and forever. Goodbye for now, Daddy, I’ll see you again soon. The world is a better place because my Daddy was in it.