My real dad was killed in action in Vietnam – it’s been a lifelong struggle to know who I am, where I came from, and who my father is. Today I wrote this for him after a memorial ceremony at the Adams-Friendship Elementary School.
I picked up his picture from the mantle, gathered the kids, and walked out the door. I dropped them off at school and put gas in the car. Then started the 80 mile trip to his hometown. My GPS got me lost as usual so I wasn’t surprised. When I arrived at the elementary school, Uncle Randy and Aunt Helen were just getting out of their van.
We walked into the office and the lady there was expecting us. She led us into the gym to a small group of chairs set up at the front. It wasn’t long before the room began to fill with students, band members, some family members, and members of the VFW and Ladies Auxillary.
The service began with presenting of the colors, singing the national anthem, and saying the pledge of allegiance. As we sat down, I looked behind Uncle Randy, past the bleachers towards the open door. Once again the vision that visited me throughout my childhood came to me once again… a young, strong and handsome soldier walked through the door, past the bleachers and with outstretched arms walked straight to me…
Several of the students prepared poems in honor of our families; the four veterans who lost their lives in Viet Nam. My eyes filled with tears as the entire school sang Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the USA” and the tears continued when they dedicated “American Soldier” to our loved ones.
As the service came to a close the Adams County Honor Guard stood, walked to the door and the first shots of a 21 gun salute rang out. When the last shot was fired, I looked past Uncle Randy towards that open door but this time the vision didn’t come to me. As the first sad notes of taps began to play, it was then my heart told me – this was no homecoming; this was the final farewell that I was too young to understand over 40 years ago.
Uncle Randy pulled me close to him as the tears fell and my heart broke with the final realization, there would never be a homecoming for that young soldier. There would be no happy ending. All that remained was the humbling reality that he was one of the soldiers who “gave all”
Thank you Dad