Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Veteran's Day Re-post: Do You Really Know Them?

Re-post from Veteran's Day 2009:

Today being Veteran's Day, I wanted thank all the members of the armed forces, from the United States or otherwise, who risk their lives. That said, I won't get into my personal politics, but my father is a veteran, and so are many other men in my family.

It got me thinking about how little I know about my dad's two tours of Vietnam, his time in Korea and Honduras, and his part in Operation Just Cause in Panama. All I knew when I was a kid was that my dad was in the army-- just like most of the other kids I knew. I thought of my dad as a man of superhuman strength and skill. He could fix almost anything, and beat us all at Trivial Pursuit. I knew that when he wasn't around, he was "in the field" or overseas. I knew he jumped out of helicopters and planes with a parachute or sometimes rappelled. But I didn't really KNOW...

Now that I'm an adult, I have a greater understanding of the things my father had to do "in the field". Especially now that his knees and shoulders are shot. And though he never really talks about when he was in Vietnam and Panama, I know what happened there shaped him into who he really is.

The point of this post?

Looking at my dad now, 62, a grandfather, with his Central Mississippi accent, shiny shoes and his creased Dockers he looks a bit like a dandy. I've had room mates make fun of the messages he'd leave on the answering machine:

"Ter-EE-sa, this is your FA-ther. Call me SOON, love." (The printed word cannot do his accent justice.)

"No, my dad is not gay!" I'd have to reassure my two gay room mates. "He fought in wars and had to kill people."

He had to KILL people.

I will never really know this part of my father, and I'm not sure I want to. But I understand, and I feel sympathy that so much of his life revolved around violence. No wonder my mother was the spanker, not him.

There are parts of my father I will never truly know, because frankly, they scare me.

But if my dad was a character in one of my novels, I'd know exactly what happened to him, exactly what he did in those wars. Because those are the actions and situations that shaped him into the man he is today.

A man you'd get a casserole recipe out of before a war story. But he still keeps his shoes shined and wakes up at 0'dark thirty.
Happy Veteran's Day, Daddy.


Do you REALLY know your characters?