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.