My dad, the silent veteran

PRESENTING THE COLORS  —  The National Guard from Malmstrom AFB presented the colors at PMC Extended Care for their Veterans Day program on Nov. 12.  Presenting colors are: TSgt Rhoda Bargas, MSgt Earl Nilsen, SMSgt Tiffany Franklin and MSgt Maureen Nilsen. Rick Hill was Master of Ceremonies, prayer was offered by Marge Thacker and Mark Jones, CEO at PMC was the guest speaker. Mark Ghekiere standing far left watches daughter SMSgt Tiffany Franklin during the Pledge of Alliance. I-O Photo by Pat Lee

 

 

 

By Tirsea McNeal, I-O Reporter

My father had fallen asleep in front of the television after dinner, again.  It was a familiar part of our evening routine.  He was snoring, reclined while the evening news with Walter Cronkite continued to blare on our new console TV.

His snoring had gotten louder. 

I wanted to change the channel, but didn’t dare because this was our routine.  He always watched the evening news after dinner, and I always watched him snore.

I didn’t dare wake him either, as I’d been warned not to startle him when he slept.

Sometimes he had recurring nightmares, and I’d learned from my mother they were about the war. “Don’t every try to just wake him up, he may wake up swinging.”

My dad never discussed anything about his time in the service, or his part over in the Pacific theater during WWII, not to me, and not much was said to my mother either. 

I knew all three of my uncles and my father served at the same time, my father being the youngest of the three.  He’d enlisted when he was just 17. My Uncle Harley served in Europe, Uncle’s Dan and Derrall served in the Pacific, like my dad.

All four brothers served in different areas, and only once did my dad get a chance to have a short visit with one of his brothers in Hawaii.

He had photos of friends he served with and I had seen a few.

I knew he’d seen things he didn’t want to remember.

I’d heard stories from my mom, grandmother and my aunts.  I understood from what was said they didn’t want to talk about their time in the war, because they didn’t want to re-live it. 

They hadn’t been on a vacation, it was war.  They didn’t want to get out the pictures or souvenirs. I had a chance to look at all those after he died.  I inherited them.

It had been a painful thing he had experienced and endured, and he courageously kept his memories private and in a box.

My father was my example of patriotism. He may not have discussed the war with me, but he taught me respect for my country and flag through his quiet and deliberate ways. 

Medals he had earned were kept in a box, later gone through after he had passed away.

I didn’t get a chance to watch him grow old.  He died at 68 from cancer.

Every year when Veteran’s are honored, I remember my dad and his service, and all the other Vets I’ve known in our family and respect and think of what they may have endured.

I may never know all the stories from my dad’s days as a soldier, but I will always honor his memory and respect all those who serve, because of what I learned, not by what he said, but by his silence.