This post is somewhat premature, but this issue has been weighing on my mind for the past several months and is one of the major reasons I haven’t been posting much on this Blog and going days without being on Twitter. This will be a tribute to a man I’ve come to respect from the day I met him some 23 years ago when my (at the time) girlfriend introduced me to him. Many can understand the natural fear we guys feel when we first meet up with the father of the person we intend to marry. This man gave me a lot to be concerned over.
Don is a Marine veteran. He volunteered to serve this nation in World War II and was deployed to the Pacific island fighting campaign. He received two purple hearts, he was involved in the Okinawa campaign where he received his second purple heart after being severely wounded in hand to hand combat. After the war he was deployed to China as part of the “China Marines” looking out for American interests and assisting in building a railroad there, until the communists drove the Americans out.
He came back to this country and went to college earning an engineering degree. He went to work for the Santa Fe railroad. He married and raised three wonderful daughters. His family settled in Prescott where he was City Manager and for a long spell, the only city engineer the town had. Don quite candidly helped design much of Prescott and Prescott Valley. He is honored and respected by the old timers there. He was active in his church, his community, and his politics. However, his family always came first. As for the politics, he is a very conservative Republican and nothing will dissuade him from his political views. Despite our “difference” of opinion regarding politics and political figures, we continued to respect each other. The one thing that kept us respecting each other was the one most important thing in our lives, the deep love for his daughter who happens to be my wife.
He was always full of stories, from his childhood through his time after the War. Only in the last few years did he start talking about his experiences in combat. He talked about being a Marine, something he is very proud of doing, being active each year for the Marine’s Birthday celebration, but rarely talked about combat. This is normal for veterans. Though he has an understandable hatred of the Japanese (understandable considering his life and death experience) we came to realize that he worries about his immortal soul for what he had to do as a Marine to survive. He is a very religious and moral person, so this weighs on his mind.
He was very active in work up until a few years ago. His entire life was his devotion to his mother and family, the nation, the Marines, his wife, his children and his community. As he grew older he came to realize he needed to step back and he did. Sadly, his health began to decline over a year ago and this once strong and powerful figure of a man succumbed to his age. As he became less able to care for himself and dependent on others to care for him, we could see the depression setting in. This is a man who prided himself for caring for others, not having others care for him.
He didn’t respond well to a surgical procedure a few months back. He had some setbacks and has spent almost the entire last two months in a hospital. Last week he was assessed for hospice care. This has been the longest he’s been away from sharing a room with his wife of 60 years.
I went to visit him last week knowing that this would most likely be the last time I would see this man alive. He’s confined to a hospital bed, his voice is weak, he struggles to find words, but he lights up when he sees his daughters and his wife; though only for a moment, then he falls asleep. During the visit I pondered how I was going to say goodbye to him.
I decided to treat him with the respect I’ve always shown him over the past 23 years. I came up to him and said “Don, I need to take my leave of you.” Then I thanked him, not for his service to the nation, the Marines, his community, his church, that wasn’t necessary because he knows that I have always had that respect for him from all our conversations over the years. I thanked him for providing me my wife. He raised a wonderful girl who grew to be a wonderful woman. I thought that was the most appropriate thing to say. Then he told me that I was a good son-in-law. Then I said “Take care Sir,” and left. Though we disagreed on politics, we both share a love of this nation and my wife. That is all that needed to be said.
He is still holding on to life as I write this, but this story has been spinning in my head and for my own mental and emotional state I felt the need to share it with those of you who are interested. We owe so much to the generations that precedes us as well as the generations that will come after us when we are no longer in a position to hold things together.
It is easy to engage in personal conflicts over petty issues as we move through life. Often it seems it is easier to hate others, hold grudges and to find ways to hurt those you have issues with. It’s been that way for eternity and will most likely never end. However, if you have problems with yourself or others taking that course, you can do something about it. Maybe not for others but for yourself. Despite the differences you may have with somebody, whether it is for personal or global issues try to find what you have in common and nurture it.
From the rhetoric most people like to post on Twitter, their blogs, Facebook, etc almost everyone cites their love of family and country. If you are true to that belief, then demonstrate it by focusing on your love of family and nation and endeavor to do those things you think will have the most positive impact. The “greatest generation” of Americans as Tom Brokaw called them is dying off. Each day around 700 United States World War II veterans die. They gave their all to those of us who followed. They gave their blood, sweat and tears to protect and build this nation. We need to pay them back, not allow others to take services away from them.
Further, by making sacrifices for those who sacrifice for us and by our efforts to build and maintain this nation for ourselves and our families (while we are physically able) the future generations quite simply owe us the same favor. In fact, this is the history of human society. Each generation caring for the preceding and next generation to perpetuate a stable and caring society.
We must be always faithful to those who came before and those who follow or we cease to be a society worth keeping.
Don did pass away last July a few weeks after I first posted this story and about two weeks prior to his 92nd birthday. He was given full military honors with a Marine Honor Guard and his ashes were interred along with his son overlooking a peaceful valley just east of Prescott. We are all coping with the loss, but are comforted in knowing he was truly an honorable man who cared for his family, church and nation and is doing recon work for all of us as we speak. Semper Fi Don!