Life as a child was fairly simple for me even with the challenges that came from having three siblings, a mother attending nursing school during the day and then working the graveyard shift, and a father who’s job at times took him out of the country. Our days were in constant motion, all chipping in to do our part and the conversations around the dinner table were mainly those of the day’s activities.
I can’t remember exactly my age when I came to realize my father was an American soldier, a man who fought for his country, a man who mourned for his friends who didn’t return from Korea, and a man that was grateful to God for sparing his life.
Having been born in the mid 1960’s overseas and not moving to the US until the 1970’s, war, soldiers, terror, and world conflict wasn’t in the forefront of our daily living and conversation as it is now. My father, being the modest and private man he is, never spoke of his service or the dark days of the Korean War. Even present day, at the age of 86, my father safe guards the days of war closely, never offering or mentioning the service he gave. The lack of sharing his experiences during those years spent, is evidence enough of the horrific days he must have endured.
It wasn’t but a few years ago during a visit with my parents at my home in Arlington, VA, that we all decided to visit the Korean War Memorial in Washington, DC. As you can imagine, living in the Metro DC area and having many family members and friends often staying with us, the trips to the memorials are more numerous than I can count. To say the truth, none of the visits to the museums or memorials particularly stand out in my mind except for the one with my father. That evening couldn’t have been more emotionally stirring and poignant.
The day we visited, the mood was partially set by the evening sky, cool air, and earlier rain.
The aged man, the Army war solider that I have the privilege of calling dad, was standing at the feet of replica soldiers lined up in rows of Juniper shrubs as though they were walking through the rice paddies of Korea. The 38 soldiers were made wearing rain ponchos that appear to be blowing in the wind, some covering their equipment. The soldiers guns are either hanging off their shoulders or held firmly by their side. The expressions on their faces saying a thousand words.
We had the memorial on this particular evening almost to ourselves. Tourist season had since passed and the cool and rainy weather wouldn’t be very welcoming to most. It was a perfect evening for us, quiet, mood provoking, and the memorials were dimly lit because of nightfall. I find the war memorials in the evenings to be especially beautiful, they are perfectly lit with night lighting that casts the perfect amount of light on the images and stone walls.
My father, strolled through the Korean Memorial at a snail’s pace, taking it all in row by row and ending up at the Pool of Remembrance where the words are displayed “Freedom is not Free.” As I glanced over at my father, I could see the tears flooding his eyes and eventually spilling over and running down his face. He takes his cotton handkerchief from his pocket, wipes his tears and continues to walk over to the Wall of Remembrance. Here, over 2,400 photographs from the National Archives of the Korean War have been etched into the black granite wall.
I don’t know that I have ever felt more pride for my father than at that moment. My father is a quietly strong and modest man, a man who loves his country, God and family. A man I’m so proud to call dad .
As we all remember Veteran’s Day, please pray for all those that have served our country and those who continue to fight for our freedom.