Memorial Day is on Monday. It is a day to remember all of our fallen heroes. I think the day has started to include fallen police officers and firefighters. I love that we have a day to honor those who have given their lives to protect us. Even though my dad did not die while in service, he is still my hero and he served his country in the United States Air Force. He served in the USAF from 1952-1972. He was trained on and flew several different airplanes, but he mainly piloted the KC-135 which refueled military aircraft while in flight.
My dad was in college when he received his draft notice. However, instead of reporting to the Army, he decided to enlist in the Air Force. He had always wanted to fly, and he was eventually accepted into flight training.
I was raised as the proud daughter of an Air Force officer. My dad quickly attained the rank of Captain and was promoted to Major before retiring. Things were very different for military men in those days. There was no Skype or cell phones. When my dad was on alert, he would have to stay on base. He would not be able to come home. My dad also went on TDY (temporary duty) during which he would be away from home for several months. There were times we left our artificial Christmas tree up way past Christmas in order to celebrate Christmas when my dad got home. If he was able to call, it would be late at night and only get to talk to my mother. During the Cuban Missile Crisis, my dad went to work one day and did not come come for two weeks. My mother had no idea where my dad was, and he was not allowed to stay in contact with us. While it was not unusual for my dad to be gone, the tension you could feel on the base was not usual. My brother and I did not whine or complain about dad being gone. We were raised to accept this as part of Dad’s job. It also helped that when my dad was home, he was totally home.
We got to see a great deal of the United States and Europe as part of my dad’s service. We moved to Kansas when I was about a year old. From there, he was assigned to Maine when I was in first grade. My dad got orders to Germany after my third grade year. We went with him to Germany. His final assignment was at SAC headquarters in Omaha, Nebraska.
While living in Maine, my dad went TDY to California. My mother decided that we would go with him. We drove from Maine to California and then back to Maine when my dad’s TDY was up. We saw a lot in California including a visit to Disneyland.
While we were living in Germany, my dad was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and grounded. It was very sad. However, he was assigned some very nice jobs. One of those jobs was with Operation First Look in England. He was in England for about six months. The day after school was out, my mother packed all three of us kids up and took us to England. We returned to Germany the day before school started. We spent the whole summer in England. The best part was that my dad had weekends off, so we went somewhere every weekend–London, Wales, Stonehenge, Shakespeare’s birthplace, Windsor castle, Buckingham Palace, Tower of London, etc. I could have spent all day looking at the Crown Jewels. While living in Germany, we also visited the Netherlands, the Black Forest, Belgium, West Berlin, and Austria.
Even while living in Nebraska, we visited places like Minnesota, North and South Dakota, and Iowa.
My dad succumbed to complications from the multiple sclerosis right before his 75th birthday. He had fought the disease for over 40 years. He fought to stay involved with his children and grandchildren. He was an amazing man.
We got to see many places that a lot of people never see, but there was a down side to being in the military. We didn’t see much of our extended family. My dad’s family lived in Illinois, and my mother’s family lived in Texas. We would get to see them for about a week each once a year. While we lived in Germany, we didn’t see any extended family for 3 years. We also had to frequently change schools. I went to 4 different schools in 1st grade.
I am very proud of my dad’s service in the Air Force. And families serve just as much as the service member.
So I will remember our fallen heroes on Memorial Day. I’m thankful for their sacrifices.