By: Anne Marie Holloway
I wrote this blog post two years ago as a Veteran’s Day tribute to one of my life’s greatest soldiers.
In 2011, when I wrote this post, my Dad was facing a diagnosis that rocked my parents’ world: Parkinson’s disease.
My Mom and Dad formed a two-person army to face this new battle. And, true to their spirits, my parents face the challenge of living with Parkinson’s courageously. I am humbled daily by their steadfast faith, their love for their family and each other.
Parkinson’s disease can try to shake my Dad’s confidence and steal the joy of a pair of people so perfectly meant for each other – but it won’t. They won’t let it.
Parkinson’s has met its match in them.
So, here it is again…a ‘thank you’ to my Dad…
I clearly remember the times I sat at the dinner table with my parents and my little sister while we listened to the airplanes flying overhead. The sounds of the jets and their engines noisily rang throughout our mealtime conversations on a regular basis and were as commonplace as dogs barking. I grew up just a little way from the South Weymouth Naval Air Station, so air traffic was a normal part of our daily lives.
On most occasions, my father would let us run outside and watch the jets, planes and helicopters. That was my dad… always watching thunderstorms with us from the front porch, or waking us up in the middle of the night to come sit on lounge chairs, wrapped in blankets, and watch a meteor shower.
Even hurricanes brought us more than their fair share of excitement. Sometimes the force of the hurricane winds would lift us up off the ground as my father had us hold onto tarps – and “fly.” He would laugh – with tears in his eyes – as if he himself was in awe of the strength at which nature would explode upon us.
Anyways, I cannot tell you how often we climbed up onto our roof to watch the “Blue Angels” perform their gracefully powerful air show maneuvers. Living near the air base was cool. My dad was cool.
I always knew that my dad was a Veteran of the Vietnam War. I knew he was injured during the war and was discharged honorably. As all children do, I used to watch my dad closely, I had memorized every inch of his kindhearted and loving face. He had a piece of metal in one of his ears that could be seen visibly beneath the skin.
Again, I never asked why… because it had always been there. Occasionally we would notice when his ankle and leg would ache causing him to limp slightly. Those occasional times when we did catch him in pain, he would stand up tall and tell us that you had to push through the pain, work harder, focus your mind on healing and your body would listen.
My father is and always has been an incredibly dedicated and hard worker – nothing ever stopped him…he would not allow it to.
A diesel mechanic by trade, (a talented one at that!) he especially loved helicopters. I had known that he worked on the helicopters during his time spent in the military. I never knew that the sounds of those engines would occasionally remind him of the horror that he had experienced as a young soldier on watch duty. An experience that filled his body with shrapnel and wounded him badly. An event that caused him to witness the violent loss of fellow soldiers, comrades… an experience that could cripple a man, make him bitter and resentful… but, not a man like my father.
So, there were times when the jets would be soaring loudly and my father would not run us outside to watch them write on the blue sky with their steaks of white. Instead, he would just put down his fork and rest his head in his hands.
My father never really spoke about his experience as a soldier until I was well into my late teens or early twenties. I had never heard the entire tale until my father was asked to speak to our local youth group. Although my father was a man who believed in peace, my father enlisted – he felt a love for his country and thought it his duty to serve it. It was strange to hear him be referred to as a “disabled” Vietnam Veteran. His struggles were part of who he was. He was proud to be who he was… we were too.
My father, now in his 60s, has faced many other battles over the years since that war. I suppose it has given him perspective… maybe even some strength and courage to face the challenges that life continues to throw his way. His patience and acceptance never cease to amaze me.
I have learned a lot about my dad throughout these years. He is of a rare design, a man of quiet strength, a protector and a guide. He is a beautiful soul, a warrior of peace with an unwavering faith.
Oh yes…and although for years he would never tell you this, my father is also a Purple Heart recipient.
I think the heavens smiled upon him when he was born into this world. The good Lord’s blessing to us, to this place we live.
So, as I watch another Veteran’s Day come and go this week, I am filled with nostalgia and awe for a man who, at the age of 63, continues to make me proud to be his daughter.
For the example of what it means to be strong and just that you provide to my sons; and for all that you have given throughout your years here on this crazy planet, and all that you continue to give…
Thank you Dad.