War – while just a three-letter word – has been the cause of great pain, both physical and emotional, for so many families all over the world.
As a young child, I learned about the psychological effects that war can hold for the soldiers who are called to fight for the better good of our world.
My father was a sergeant in the U.S. Marine Corps during the Vietnam War. As a child, it was hard to imagine the horrors he must have witnessed in such a faraway country. As an adult, I have studied the war in Vietnam, trying to learn why it was necessary and the effects it had in our country and in the world.
I try to imagine my 18-year-old self receiving a letter in the mail telling me I had been drafted and would be sent halfway around the world to a country I knew nothing of. I can imagine the plane ride to this faraway country. The stress that these young people must have felt, not knowing what was in store for them, must have been tremendous. Would they ever see their homeland again, their families, everything they held dear?
As a country, we owe it to all of our veterans to thank them and to hold them in esteem for their service to make our world a place where, hopefully someday, we will all live in peace.
I wrote this letter to my father, thanking him for his service on this Memorial Day.
I will always remember your firm hands holding me, and how I loved it when you would hold me upside down. Or when you would throw me up in the air and catch me.
I will always remember the amphibious all-terrain vehicles you would take me for rides on in Lake Erie.
I will always remember the stories you would tell me of eating snakes in the jungle and how hot it was, but how you never complained about serving your country. You were so proud of the U.S. Marine eagle tattoo on your arm.
I will always remember the camping trips, especially the night of the storm when the tent blew over and the first thing you did was make sure I was safe and sound.
I will always remember the time you took to teach me how to tie my shoes using the bunny ear book. I will always remember singing our favorite song – Glen Campbell’s “Gentle on My Mind.”
I will always remember the love you gave me, even though I also knew at a young age that something was horribly wrong.
I now understand why you left when I was only 7. Even though growing up without a father certainly held its challenges, I know that you had many horrible psychological scars that needed to heal.
When I saw the holes that you put in the wall, I knew that you kept your hidden anger as far away from me as you could, for as long as you could.
I love you and want you to know that whatever path that life has chosen for you, I will always be your daughter and will always love you.
I’m proud of my father for the sacrifices that he made for our country and for the nation of Vietnam. I ask that this Memorial Day, while you are enjoying the first picnic of the season, you take a minute with your family to say a prayer of thanksgiving for the people far and wide who have been affected by such a small word – war.