Oddly enough, my dad served in Vietnam.
Really, I suppose it's not odd. He's that age, of those men and he was drafted out of a poor coal-mining town to see all of his friends die. I believe the average age of a solider in Vietnam was 19, and my dad was 19.
Oddly, only, that he never, ever, ever talks about it. About what went on there.
Obviously, I never knew him before he went there. I wasn't even thought of until about four years after he came back. I believe though, that it changed him.
I imagine that's war does. It changes you.
My dad is one of the most amazing people I've ever met in my life.
I'm certain he did not want to go to Vietnam. He did not voluntarily join the military. He had a really young wife and a baby on the way. He was drafted to go and he went. He did his best and he instilled in me, and all of his children, a sense of pride in our country and honor for serving it.
It amazes my little children that their Pappaw was in a war. They just can't believe it. All they know of war is what they see on television now. Once my son was reading his atlas (shut up, he's a geek like his mother) and he found Vietnam on the map and he got very upset and asked me if he would have to go there someday to fight. I told him, no, the Vietnam war was over years and years ago. He looked at me solemnly and said, "The war will never end Mom. It will never be over."
I wonder, sometimes, if that's the way my dad feels inside.
He is my hero. He is a hero to all of us.
Not because of what he did in Vietnam. But because of who is he, now. Today. The battle is different now. Now, he fights cancer. He does so with humor and grace and dignity.
When my first husband left me and I was dying inside, he drove his van eight hours, deposited me, my two babies, and as much of our stuff as he could fit inside of it and took us away from there.
When I decided to go back to school, he drove out of his way by twenty minutes to pick up my little children at daycare, so I could go to class.
When I moved to Tennessee, he was heartbroken. But he also understood. He also wants us, our family, to be successful. He also understood our success could not come if we remained stagnant.
When I graduated from college he was there. Even though he was miserably sick from chemotherapy, he was there. He had to climb stairs and it hurt him, because not only does he have cancer he has two slipped discs in his back and a torn meniscus in his knee.
He was there and cheering as loud as anyone.
All of these things, and a billion more, make him my hero.
If you agree with the war, or if you don't, it's Memorial Day. Hug a veteran. Hug a serviceman or woman.
These are our people. And that's what it's about.