The Eleventh Day, the Eleventh Hour

Not only is today Veteran’s Day, but it’s my dad’s birthday, who also happens to be a veteran. He gets his birthday off work all his life- but now he’s retired, so I suppose it’s no biggie anymore. He’s pheasant hunting today, as he does every year on his birthday. Or maybe it’s duck hunting, or goose hunting, or whatever season it is… I hear a joke in there somewhere.

My dad served two tours of duty in Vietnam before I was born. He signed up. He didn’t wait for his card to be called and then pull some fancy public theatre and burn his card, and he didn’t run to Canada. I understand why some people did those things, but that’s not what my dad is about. He was a nineteen year old kid, like most of the kids in Vietnam, but he had a strong sense of Duty and a tremendous love of his country already. He and his best friend, who also happens to be my uncle, went down together and signed themselves up.

Beyond that, I don’t know much. Dad never, ever talked about Vietnam. Other than some old wool army blankets we always used at the beach, and a cammo jacket he used for hunting, there was no evidence at all of his time in the military. To this day, I have no idea what his experience was like, or how he felt about it- although I suppose his silence speaks volumes.

Once, when I was about 12, I was digging around in the garage and I came across a box with a bunch of old stuff in it- pictures, dog tags, letters- I knew I shouldn’t be looking or touching, and quickly put the box back. It just had that air, that hallowed, do not disturb, ghosts lie here, air; an air even a curious, dorky kid could feel.

So today, I honor my dad. He fought in an unpopular war and did so willingly, and has carried the burdens from that service privately. He’s a good man, and I hope be bags a bundle of pheasants today. Happy Birthday. Happy Veterans Day.

9 thoughts on “The Eleventh Day, the Eleventh Hour

  1. My friend’s father, whom I know very well, served in Vietnam as well. He lost his leg and has a body full of shrapnel. No one goes near him in his sleep. It is a running joke that if you try to wake him up in any way, prepare to get the life beat out of you. I don’t think it is a joke. He is a great man and deserves to be honored. As does your Father and every other person who has served and continues to serve. Whether we believe in what they fought for or are fighting for, those in service always deserve our support. Great post in honoring your Dad!

  2. My Grandpa was like your Dad, no matter what the circumstances he would not discuss his service.
    When my uncle died, far too young, he had full military honors for his funeral from the Veterans of Foreign Wars. It was beautiful. The men were so proud in their dress uniforms, the shots that rang out echoed the emptiness in my aunt’s heart. It was stirring to realize how literally the responsibility was passed to the next generation as each of my 7 cousins was presented a flag and my aunt was given the flag that had been draped over my uncle’s coffin. I felt so patriotic and proud but I had never known before that day that he was a veteran.

  3. tell your dad THANK YOU for me. we are all so blessed to have men and women like your father, who are willing to fight for our country, for our freedom, for our way of life.

  4. My uncle is buried in a Veteran’s cemetery, and no one in the family knew he’d ever served. Weird but pretty typical of my family.

    Happy birthday to your dad!

  5. “It just had that air, that hallowed, do not disturb, ghosts lie here, air.”

    Tracy, that is perfect – totally and completely perfect.

  6. What a stirring tribute to your dad and to all veterans. Their service speaks volumes. All veterans deserve our appreciation and support for the sacrifices they give for our freedom. God bless America!

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