I’m celebrating my hero this Father’s Day and I hope you are too
I am happy that our nation celebrates our fathers and our mothers. They gave us life and shaped our lives. Mine, certainly, have been pillars in my life.
As we honor our fathers today, I hope we recognize their importance more frequently. We must honor them every day.
I look up from my home office every workday to the frame containing my dad’s photo from the Air Force when he was in his late twenties, along with the railroad engineer’s hat he he wore at the age of 3 in a treasured family photo. There are also family photos of the two of us at Florida State Games and our tailgate parties where three generations descended on “The Hill” of Tallahassee to prepare for battle. I smile all the time.
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No matter where the game was being played — Tallahassee, Atlanta, Dallas, Clemson — or how old and frail he was, dad was always ready to join us on a road trip. Load up the SUV, add snacks, an adult beverage cooler and its trusty blender, and away you go. He looked forward to spending time with me, my children and our friends… and nothing could be more enjoyable for me.
These are some of my best moments. They will never fade from my memory.
Little did Dad know that as a young boy growing up in a small town in the mountains of West Virginia, which he left at 17 to join the military, he would serve his country in the scorching jungles of Vietnam and the Thailand often covered what he later learned was Agent Orange. I tried many times to imagine what fears must have crossed his mind as bullets, landmines and the like took lives all around him or as he lay down with deadly cobras. I tried to imagine because dad never talked about it. Just doing your duty as a proud American…
Little did Dad know that he would also be serving in 50 below zero whiteout conditions in Greenland, in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower in Paris or, more importantly in my family’s life, in Liverpool, England . It was in Liverpool that dad met mum at an Air Force Ball at RAF Burtonwood. He was smitten at first sight, immediately telling his pals “I’m going to marry her”.
Fortunately, he was right.
Dad was an ordinary man from Appalachia. Meeting a girl from a big city in England – the first cousin of original Beatles drummer Pete Best, no less – changed his life forever.
He preferred beer to fine wine, pizza to filet mignon and a family day to anything else. He cared deeply for Mom, my siblings, and me. Later in life, he found new joy in his three grandchildren. Mom too. They did everything for their grandsons and granddaughter and loved every minute of it.
Dad taught all of his kids the value of hard work. After retiring from the military after more than 20 years, he immediately went to work for the United States Postal Service and spent the rest of his professional career there. As far back as I can remember, he also took a second job putting food on the table.
He also taught us that success is measured in times spent with family and friends, not the amount of money in your bank account. Despite his busy schedule, he always found time to play ball with us and stay involved in all aspects of our lives. Nothing is more precious, more precious than that. We were really very rich!
In 2019, as a disabled veteran with cancer caused by his exposure to Agent Orange in Vietnam, Dad died peacefully surrounded by his family. As it should be, it was the 4th of July.
I miss you, dad, but you will never be forgotten!
Ray Glenn is content coach and engagement editor at the Panama City News Herald. You can reach him at [email protected]
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