In January 1948 a young man of seventeen went into the US Navy only days after he and his father pulled a young family from a burning house. That was my Pop. He’s now 81 years old.My son is turning 17 in a few days and I can’t begin to imagine so much happening in the life of someone so young. Last year, when I went to Texas to visit my dad, I asked him about his tattoos. I don’t think I’d ever asked him about them before, he’s just always had them and they’ve just always been a part of who he was. He told me the story of how he was in Chicago on a 6 hour leave from basic training, (then 18 years old,) and he went to the tattoo parlor of Tatts Thomas. Tatts, a very famous figure in the history of American tattooing, inked a ship on his left forearm. The charge was $3.50. A few hours later, Dad went back to have his Navy service number tattooed on his other forearm for $1.50. That just fascinates me to no end to know.My dad went on to serve his time in the Navy. After marrying my mom, he joined the Army to which he later retired from. Dad served in the Korean War and the Vietnam War.I was back in Texas a couple of weeks ago with my husband to visit my Dad for the last time. He’s had serious health concerns for years, including Agent Orange related Diabetes, one of many issues he and many other veterans face as a result of their service to our country. Most recently, he was diagnosed with bladder cancer that has now spread to and has filled his lungs. Although he is now on Hospice care, he is still getting around a little and was able to make a trip into town to tour the Alamo. He said in all his years living in San Antonio that he’s never been. It was a really nice day. Here we are- Dad, his sweet wife Judy, Jeff and I.While at the Alamo, an older gentleman walked up to my father who was wearing his veteran’s hat, shook his hand and said “Welcome home, Soldier”, and my father thanked him. You see, not many who served in Vietnam were ever welcomed home, and often in the case of my father, just the opposite by protesters. I will never forget that beautiful exchange of words nor miss an opportunity to welcome a Vietnam Vet home or thank a veteran for his or her service.
Dad and I still talk on the phone and he’s always in good spirits and always lifting mine. My Pop is at peace with leaving this place and excited about being with the Lord. My heart is overjoyed in knowing that, but I will miss him more than words can ever say. I can’t wait to see him in Heaven- no doubt it will look something like this: Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. 2 Corinthians 5:8
I love you Pop.
Update- March 31, 2011: My dad left this place last night to fly away Home. I will miss him so. Thank you for all your beautiful support and prayers. I’ve been blessed by them all.