My father served in the Air Force for 20 years, so the first 16 years of my life was spent as an Air Force brat. My family and I served along with him, moving from place to place, the nomad life difficult. Sadly, my father died many years ago, and to this day, whenever I see a man in uniform, I tear up. You see, our country didn’t always applaud our military men and women; not so long ago they returned from war to anger and hate rather than love and gratitude.
Some time ago, I went to lunch with a group of women from my neighborhood to celebrate a birthday. There was a table nearby of men in fatigues, perhaps National Guard, I don’t recall, I just remember lots of camouflage and khaki (my favorite). The lady sitting next to me got up and went over to speak with them, and to tell them thank you for serving. When she returned, she told us what she had said and I became extremely emotional.
You see, my father was a veteran of two wars, Korea and Viet Nam. I wasn’t even born during the Korean action, so I can’t say how things were when he came home that time. But I do remember the Viet Nam war. Those vets didn’t get any thanks or even respect, even though they were just doing their duty. Being in the military seemed to garner nothing but rancor from the American people. I wished that day in the restaurant that my father could have known such a moment as when my neighbor gave her gratitude to those men. My heart broke as I thought on that.
It was only a few years before my mother passed that she told me about looking for a house to rent when we first moved to Idaho while my father was in Viet Nam. It was a small farming town where she managed to find something in our budget. But the owner of the home stated quite emphatically that she wouldn’t rent to “Air Force trash.” I was shocked to hear such a thing, and angry that she had to endure such deplorable treatment.
I can’t imagine the hurt my mother felt. I don’t know if she ever told my father, but it speaks to the difficulty of that time. So, today and every Veterans Day, I think of those who have served. Not just our current men and women, but especially those who did their duty when no one cared. They hold a special place in my heart, along with my father.
Thank you, Daddy. I for one was always proud of you and never forgot the years you gave for your country. I miss you, and wish you could see how attitudes have changed.
Your loving daughter Fela, in memory of Tech Sgt Billy G. Dawson, U.S.A.F.