Memorial Day always brings me strong feelings of pride and sadness, as I reflect back on my Dad's life and how much the military played in his life. This is a favorite photo of me with him, taken almost exactly 9 years ago on Father's Day, and only about three months before he passed away from cancer.
My dad joined the Marine Corps when he was only 17 years old (yikes, that's only one year older than my Katie is now?!) and served proudly for the next 25 years, including tours in Korea, Guam and Vietnam. He retired when I was in the 6th grade, and before that we never lived in one place more than 2 years at a time. But we also got to experience living in beautiful and exotic places like Hawaii and Thailand. During the rare instances when he spoke of his military experiences, we were able to catch tiny glimpses into what that life was like and how hard it must have been to lose so many of his friends. And every Memorial Day weekend, I remember that he would solemnly raise a flag in memory of those he had lost and fought with.
Like so many of his generation, my dad was a handsome, proud and private man—who also surprised us with unexpected joking and singing—and had a sort of John Wayne quality to him. He was "bigger than life" to me and I always felt so protected and loved while I was growing up, knowing he was around. He faced every crisis with quiet courage, including his long fight with cancer. Even though he's gone, I still get that feeling whenever I think of him and I know that I am who I am today in large part because of the strong values he instilled in us. And I'm extremely thankful and honored for what he and others like him have done for our country over the years—risking their lives so that their families, friends, and even total strangers can feel protected too.
Semper Fi and may God bless all of you!