Today is Veterans Day. If you’re lucky it’s a day off from work. If you’re not, you may recall its a time when America honors its fallen soldiers.
If you’re me, it’s a day to honor both a fallen soldier and a beloved father.
Truman Winbush Sr., didn’t approve of my decision to join the U.S. Air Force. It wasn’t so much that he preferred I follow his footsteps into the Navy. I think he just expected more from me than a career in the military. Truth be told, so did I, but I had messed around in school too much to go to college. Besides, I had no money and I was immature as well. That’s a recipe for failure.
While I don’t know if joining the military made me a success, it did force me to grow up. You have to when a drill instructor standing inches away from your nose SCREAMING IN YOUR FACE and you’re doing your level best not to stutter as you respond to his ranting with a “SIR, YES SIR!”
Whether or not they actually go off to war, every soldier is defending this nation because the possibility they might have to is always there. It’s part of the price of the ticket.
I was prepared to pay that cost. So was my father. Dad wasn’t the type to wave a flag, but I never doubted he loved America and he was proud of his service. It wasn’t his style to make a big production about his patriotism.
I drove the 70 miles to Dayton to plant a pair of small flags by Dad’s headstone. They had been in two planters on the front porch. I wasn’t blessed with his green thumb, but I think my father would have given me a little half-smile to see how well the asparagus vines I grew this spring had flourished. “That’s pretty good,” he would have said, secure in the knowledge that he could have done better.
My mother passed away almost 11 years ago and while I still miss her terribly, the hurt isn’t quite as fresh since my father died in 2007. At the time, there was a bit of controversy over his being buried at Dayton National Cemetery. As time goes by though, whenever I see that simple headstone with the tribute, “A Life Well Lived” that my brother and my father’s namesake had chosen, I can’t think of a better resting place for Truman Winbush Sr., than among the presence of other quiet Americans who did their duty and defended their country with honor.
Happy Veterans Day, Dad. One day I’ll join you in Dayton and you can tell me all over again what a big dummy I was when I joined the service. There were times it got on my nerves, but I know it was only you saying, “I love you, son” the best way you knew how to.