Kathy has 30 + years working for and with persons with disabilities. She has 12 years experience being the daughter of a wounded veteran.
A small child, standing in the front seat
of an old Ford, tight against a woman
Through the windshield manicured green lawns
holding white buildings with black windows.
"It will be okay. Honey, it will be okay."
Inside long hall and door after door
breaking through walls of pale, cold green tile
high as a child's reach.
inside one door
a silent man sits head bowed, eyes closed
The child pats his knees
"Daddy, it's me. Daddy?"
A small wooden house, pink azaleas blooming
Around a concrete carport holding paint stains
A sunny day and a man cradles
the smaller hand, teaching the way
paint goes on a boat.
"You're doing good honey. Doing good."
A room with a lamp to hold the dark
at bay from the bed, holding the child
as a man teaches about clouds
clapping at the drama of a lightning show.
"Nothing to be afraid of honey. Nothing at all."
A bedside table holding brown bottles
like so many snow-capped mountains
open daily to allow a waterfall
of pills to roll in the waiting hand.
"Daddy, time to take your pills again, Daddy?"
Manicured green lawns holding
rows of gravestones lined up like old soldiers
While a daughter cradles her son
and remembers a father.
"It will be okay, Honey"
My dad's birthday is December 24th. If he were alive, he would be 104 as it is he died suddenly of an aortic aneurysm. I was 12. His funeral was on my birthday.
Dad in Uniform
World War II
My dad was a veteran of World War II. Less than a year after the bombing of Pearl Harbor he enlisted with the Army Air Corps. He received a diploma in Combat Intelligence at the age of 28. According to notes kept by his mother, he received a Lieutenant's Commission and was promoted to Captain. When he was commissioned as a second lieutenant, he was ordered to Oakland, California with the headquartered squadron of the Fourth Fighter Command.
It is unknown how he met my mother as she was in nursing school in Wisconsin. But, somehow they met and got married in Oakland, California in September of 1943. Almost 8 months later, dad was shipped overseas. Mother was pregnant with their first child and went home to Wisconsin. According to his mother's notes, dad spent time in Berlin, Brussels, London, Rheims, and Paris.
His discharge papers indicated dad served on the Supreme Headquarters, Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF) Intelligence Division. SHAEF was created to lead the invasion of Normandy (Operation Overlord.) The invasion of Normandy was on June 6, 1944. That means less than one month after dad was shipped overseas more than 160,000 Allied troops invaded Western Europe. It took nearly a year and 425,000 lives, but by Spring 1945 the Allies had defeated the Germans. Operation Overlord was considered a turning point in World War II.
But it was only a turning point, the war was not over. On August 6, 1945, the Americans dropped the world's first atomic bomb over the Japanese city of Hiroshima. The explosion reportedly wiped out 90% of the city and killed 80,000 people. Three days later another atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, killing an estimated 40,00 people. The Japanese surrendered on August 15, 1945, bringing an end to World War II.
Nine months after the end of World War II my dad was released from service with an honorable discharge. For his service, he received the American Theater Ribbon, EAME Theater Ribbon with one bronze battle star, three Overseas Service bars, Victory Medal, and a Commendation Ribbon.
Seven years, three children and three states later, they settled in in a sleepy, rural town in northwest Florida. According to my mother, my dad was a changed man after the war. My mother did not talk to me about dad's illness unless specifically asked. From my few questions I learned my dad had persecutory delusions and sometimes he voluntarily went to the Veteran's Administration hospital when things got to be too much for him. The only military records I have are his discharge papers. There are no records to verify the specifics of his service or his illness as the military records burned in the National Personnel Records Center fire of 1973 and the Veteran's Administration hospital in Gulfport, Mississippi is long gone. My mother destroyed the medical records she had and she died long before I got into genealogy.
In one of my earlier Hubpages article, Is It Right to Blame Parents for Behaviors of Adult Child with Mental Illness? I talk about the interplay of relationships, genetics, and the environment. In a MedlinePlus article about Veterans and Mental Health, the author states "Being in combat and separated from family can be stressful. The stress can put service members and veterans at risk for mental health problems." My mother always blamed the stress of the war for dad's illness.
Although the marriage fractured, my mother and dad stayed together. For a period, things stabilized for him. I was the lucky beneficiary of that time. I remember lots of good times with him. He was a self-employed Marine Architect and Surveyor. I remember us going to the downtown cafe and while he and his friends had coffee, I had a soda. I had to kneel in the vinyl seat to get to the top of the straw to drink my soda. I remember helping him build John boats and collating books of his boat designs. I remember him bandaging my skinned knees and calming my fears of thunder. I remember so much more. We had good times. With me, he was an attentive and patient parent.
It has been 50 years since my dad died. So many skinned knees, bruised heart, and unanswered questions later, I miss my dad. Happy Birthday and Merry Christmas Dad.
Resources for Veterans and Their Families
Military OneSource is a free service provided by the Department of Defense to service members and their families to help with a broad range of concerns, including possible mental health issues. You can call 24/7 at 1-800-342-9647 or research their website at https://www.millitaryonesource.mil/
National Resource Directory (NRD) is designed to connect wounded warriors, service members, veterans and their families with national, state and local support programs. https://nrd.gov
Veterans Crisis Line 1-800-273-8255 (press 1)
"Hope School Graduate Gets Commission." The North Side Press. Atlanta, Georgia. Thursday, October 22, 1942.
SHAEF: The Commanders of Operation Overlord. retrieved from mrflorwh.weebly.com/uploads/5/9/1/6/59164065/shaef.pdf.
History.ComEditors.D-Day. History.com. A&E Network.2018. retrieved 11/29/18 from http://www.history.com/topics/world-war-ii/d-day
History.ComEditors. Bombing of Hiroshia and Nagasaki. A&E Network.2018. retrieved 11/29/18 from http://www.history.com/topics/world-war-ii/bombing-of-hiroshima-and-nagasaki
MentalHealth.gov. Help for Service Members and Their Families. retrieved 11/27/18 from https://www.mentalhealth.gov/get-help/veterans
MedlinePlus. Veterans and Military Health. retreived 11/27/18 from https://medlineplus.gov/veteransandmilitaryhealth.html
Kathy Burton (author) from Florida on January 30, 2019:
Thank you Mark. I missed him more than usual this year.
Mark Tulin from Ventura, California on January 30, 2019:
Absolutely beautiful. Your emotions shine through as well as your devotion.
Kathy Burton (author) from Florida on January 18, 2019:
Thank you for reading and commenting. Yes, writing this article was helpful. Hope the new year is treating you well.
Kathy Burton (author) from Florida on January 18, 2019:
Thank you for taking the time to comment so sorry to hear about the passing of your father-in-law. We had a wonderful Christmas-our first granddaughter (4 months old) is a blessing.
Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on December 31, 2018:
Kathy, it's great that you shared this memory and beautiful tribute to your Dad. Your keeping him alive this way helps you as much as it enriches us who read about him. Thank you. Happy New Year!
Kathy Burton (author) from Florida on December 21, 2018:
Thank you for your kind words. I am lucky to have a close knit family. My two sons, daughter-in-law and 3 month old granddaughter will be joining my husband and I for Christmas Day. While
I wish dad and mom could be with us. I have much to be grateful for.
I wish you and your family a Merry Christmas and Much happiness in New Year.
Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on December 21, 2018:
I loved your poetry, and I had to hear of your father's passing when you were so young. My husbands's father die of cancer on Christmas Eve and he was a WWII vet also. I am glad you shared so much information about your father and WWII. I hope you will still have a Merry Christmas.
Kathy Burton (author) from Florida on December 20, 2018:
Thanks for reading and commenting. It was a shock when I realized it had been 50 years since he died. When we are young we think they will always be around.
RTalloni on December 19, 2018:
Thank you for sharing something of your dad's life and your memories of him. The suffering he endured is usually a complex matter, though we like to simplify it in order to try to understand it. It's wonderful that you remember him with such fondness in spite of the suffering.