I had the honor and pleasure of spending special time with my parents this summer. Before every outing, my father would faithfully don his WW II Veteran cap. When he, Mom and I visited the Montana State Capitol to pay homage to the fallen Marines of Lima Company 3/25, several people shook Dad’s hand and said, “Thank you for your service, Sir.”
The tender moment he and Marine Mike Strahle shared brought tears to my eyes. “Thank you for your service, Sir,” Mike said, echoing those words that made me proud.
“Thank you for yours,” was Dad’s soft reply.
Surrounding us were the hauntingly beautiful paintings of The Lima Company Memorial: The Eyes of Freedom. Many of the twenty-three Marines who lost their lives in Iraq in 2005 were younger than my twenty-three- and twenty-six-year-old sons.
Two weeks after visiting the memorial, Dad was hospitalized at Fort Harrison VA Medical Center. Over and over again I heard staff say to him and to others, Thank you for your service. Mike, an RN and a veteran, wrote those words on the whiteboard in Dad’s room.
Dad’s been home for one week. Following his discharge, we spent time looking through and sorting some of the treasures he’s collected throughout the years. On the title page of one of his books I found this poignant inscription:
The Greatest Generation indeed.
A few days ago while at dinner with Dad, Mom, a sister and a niece, I noticed a father and son watching as we played musical chairs—not once but twice—in our efforts to avoid an overhead draft. My assumption that the men had found our around-the-table antics humorous was dispelled when they stopped to shake Dad’s hand on their way out.
“Thank you for your service,” the father, who looked to be about my age, said. His voice caught as he added, “My dad was in World War II. We lost him eighteen months ago.”
We said we were sorry to hear about their loss, but our words felt inadequate.
As Mom and I held Dad’s hands in the ER the previous week, I’d wondered how much more time we would have with him. Three hours later, he was sitting up in bed, looking much better. “Can I go home now?” he asked, after finishing his dinner.
My dad is tough. He didn’t go home that night, but he did days later. I was able to stay with him and Mom for five more days. On the morning of my departure, we went out for breakfast. I asked Dad if I could take his picture, this post rolling around inside my head.
Thank you for your service, Dad. I love you.
Special thanks to Lima Company Memorial for the first three pictures.