Dad stopped to watch a flag waving high on the flagpole. I stood quietly beside him and squinted to see its red and white stripes.
I looked up at Dad in a starched blue shirt tucked neatly into his creased uniform pants. The eight silver stripes on his jacket sleeve caught the sun. Chief Master Sergeant – I liked the way it sounded. I could smell his cologne.
The bugler played Taps over the loud speaker. Its solitary sound echoed throughout the Air Force base. Every afternoon at 5, cars came to a standstill, soldiers stood at attention, business-as-usual halted.
Day is done.
We walked to meet Mom and my brother at the commissary. A soldier saluted. Dad saluted back. The soldier was gone before I could tell him, “That’s my dad.”
Dad accomplished a lot in his lifetime, but for me, nothing measured up to “growing up military.”
I didn’t find out until after Dad died that he was nominated for the country’s highest enlisted level of leadership in his branch, a title held by one non-commissioned officer at a time, Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force. Dad was like that, humble about his service even though I watched him pin medals on his uniform, assume more work than he had to, and leave his family to go on extra tours of duty. He postponed his retirement to serve in Vietnam.
He set the bar high for patriotism. I never once heard Dad make a derogatory comment about his supreme Commanders-in-Chief, our presidents. When I spoke out on one occasion , he said, “Do you really think that’s so?”
I wish I had been quiet.
On August 13, 2005, Dad died. Instead of a uniform, he was in a suit. His cologne only a faint memory. The flag wasn’t flying – it was draped over his casket. Again I stood beside Dad while a bugler played Taps, but this time I looked down and cried.
Dad’s day was done.
I’d appreciate hearing your military story.
WRite wHere I’m supposed to be – Dear God, I want to remember the sacrifice when I say, “I grew up military.” To follow my dad’s patriotic example. To thank a passing uniformed soldier. And when I’m tempted to make negative comments about our leaders, to be quiet instead.
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