The tribute below is from a letter that I received from my daughter Jackie when returning from the Honor Flight on October 3rd of last year. The Honor Flight, is a one day trip given for Veterans to visit the war related memorials and monuments in Washington D.C.
The flights are sponsored and funded by various corporations, business, and non-profit organization.
On the return flight each veteran gets a sack of letters and notes sent by family, friends, and local citizens thanking each of the vets for their service to their country. Most of the letters were one page in length.
As you can see, Jackie's was two and one-half pages expressing her love and appreciation for the sacrifices made by military vets.
I shed a few tears every time I read it.
September 12, 2017
First of all, I want to thank you as an American citizen for the life I live in this wonderful country where I am able to live freely, where my rights are protected, and where I have never experienced war on my homeland. All of these privilege I credit to our servicemen and veterans and I remind myself not often enough that I owe my privileged life to the sacrifices that so many men and women made on behalf of the United States of America.
Second of all and more importantly, I want to express my love and gratitude to you for being such a wonderful father, and the sacrifices you’ve made on behalf of your family and your country. I know it as not easy to be away from Mom and us kids for such long stretches of time, and I credit both you and Mom for maintaining a loving supportive family structure both during the times you were absent on tours of duty, and when you were present at home in the U.S.
I can remember the first time I had to say goodbye to you when you were leaving for Vietnam. I could not have been more than three years old, but I remember you were holding me and then passed me to Mom, with Julie standing next to her. Then you hugged and kissed us all, and Mom started crying. Her voice was shaking as she said goodbye. It was the first time I’d seen Mom cry, and I felt very sad watching my daddy leave. I can remember you were in your Marine Corps uniform.
I have many memories of listening to and recording the tapes we sent back and forth. I remember Mom telling me to speak into the microphone so Daddy could hear me and I asked if Daddy was inside the tape recorder, and Mom and Grandma and Grandpa said “Yes, speak right there so he can hear you”. That was very confusing to a 3 year old. I think I eventually figured it out. I came to realize that you were very far away in a place called Vietnam with the United States Marines. I also remember the joy that we all felt upon your return from that tour, the time spent with Grandma and Grandpa Rahm, and Grandma and Grandpa Holmes, the aunts, uncles and cousins.
You returned again for a second tour of Vietnam with the Marines, and I spent second grade back in Iowa, but this time we rented the Bernhard house. Brian was just a little guy. I remember making more tapes, and Mom would always remind us to say our prayers and especially remember Daddy in Vietnam. I also remember when Denang was bombed. Mom always listened to the news to hear any updates on the situation in Vietnam. I remember you were stationed there, and things got very bad. Mom had us all kneel down in the living room and pray for your safety. Then you called her to let her know that everything was all right. When she hung up the phone, she burst into tears. I think that was the second time I remember seeing Mom cry.
When I look back on all the places we’ve lived, growing up on Military Bases, driving across country< to our new homes, I remember it all with fondness and appreciation. I have been truly blessed. Now, especially with Benjamin and Daniel young adults, and listening to the stories of families pulled apart by war in places like Syria, or Afghanistan, or even Mali, I think how fortunate we are to be living here in America, under the protection of our armed forces. Most of us including me, often take our freedoms for granted and forget that there are many men and women in the service of our country who are fighting for all of our rights, including life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
I think most U.S. citizens, and our country in general, fall very short in honoring and supporting our veterans. I am very happy that some of our veterans are recognized through the Honor Flight, and I am grateful that this program exists. I wish there was more in the way of paying tribute to those who have served their country. I hope, Dad, that you are able to enjoy your day with fellow veterans in Washington D.C. It is such a wonderful city and the perfect place to be honored. I hope that you will be able to take time to reflect upon and appreciate everything you’ve done for this great country and the people who are able to call it home. I am truly grateful on so many levels for the devotion and service you’ve given to all of us in the United States of America and beyond.
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