How to Be a Dad

How to Be a Dad


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Memorial Day Lacy Park
My sons, Cody and Max at a war memorial, 10 and 8 years old, 2008.

At first I thought they were making fun or at least making dumb. Sometimes it’s hard to tell with kids. Let me explain.

We’d just moved and I was using the pools of green on the navigation system’s map to find a park to play at with the boys. The first three green blobs turned out to be botanical gardens or golf courses. Then we found THE Park. It was like discovering Shangri La. A private park in a wealthy neighborhood.

We parked and the boys, Cody and Max, bolted ahead with rocket thrusters I no longer possessed. I caught up with them at beginning of the wide expanse of the gorgeous park. They were goofing around near a statue. It was a war memorial.

I gave them a disapproving look when they saw me. They both wore innocent expressions that shouted “Whu? Whu’d I do wrong?”

I told them what they were hopping around on like monkeys. They were really quiet as I explained to them that the names listed on the metal plaques were people who had died in wars. These were people from this park’s neighborhood and were divided up by war. WWII. The Vietnam War. I showed them the single name under the war in Iraq that had a beginning year with no ending year listed. In case they missed the gravity of that statement, I pointed out that that meant the war was still going on.

They were obviously stunned by what they were hearing, but I could see that, despite the fact that the war was still ongoing, they were encouraged by the fact that there was only one name, where there were so heartbreakingly many for the others.

They walked up to the statue and assumed the poses you see pictured in this post. It rocked me to my toes. Pride for my sons. Pride for those who had fallen in the service of our country. (I wasn’t cheapening the moment, I had to take pictures so Lizzie could see.)

I was never in service. I don’t agree with war. My parents both served during Vietnam, but they were hippies in the best sense of the word, and didn’t agree with war or fleeing to Canada, either. They served.

Though I would have served if my country had called, I believe war is the most insane activity mankind can involve itself in. But I have a deep respect for soldiers and don’t say this to belittle them in any way. My objections with war are that they are either a tragedy enacted by a government or a failure, to one degree or another, of a government to have kept a tragedy from coming into being. At the same time, when I watch Band of Bothers, my teeth still crack as my jaw clenches and my eyes still well with tears as my arms ache to feel the fury of a roaring Tommy gun.

I’m not a historian by any stretch of even a severely mentally deranged person’s imagination, but I do know that the people who are responsible for starting wars are rarely the ones who fight them. It is commonly the youth of a nation that fight wars, sent forth unto the fray by its elder leaders. A country sends its sons and daughters, and as a parent, how could I not feel something very strongly on the subject?

Memorial Day Respects at a War Momument
 “Let me not mourn for men who have died fighting, but rather let me be glad that such heroes lived.”

–General George S. Patton, Jr.

Whenever military parents write in to our website, at home or deployed, I’m always profoundly touched. I cannot imagine it, as a parent, but I feel such a respect that any compliments that are paid or even simple LOLs are a special honor to receive.

As a kid, I fought elaborate wars with my G.I. Joe action figures. I used to take a pair of pliers to heat a nail red hot on our stove and put bullet holes and wounds in the plastic of my heroes and their enemies. I’m an artist and a writer so I flattered myself the ability to possibly better imagine the horrors of war. Then I grew up and filled in the blanks of my imagination with some of the hard realities. I have such admiration for the persistence of soldiers through those horrors, horrors that I only play acted as a child. For the ones that laid down their lives… I can’t even properly express my feelings.

The park memorial begins with these terribly beautiful and true words:

“Among these, uncommon valor was a common virtue.”

I salute you, men and women of service. I bow my head for those of you who have fallen in the love and service of your country.




27 Responses to “Remembering”

  1. Stefan says:

    That’s just… wow.
    It is VERY nice to see/read/whatever someone, who does not blame the soldiers for the wars.

    I have no idea about what it’s like in the US – but over here are some places which you just should never mention that you eveer might have thought about maybe saying hello to someone who knows a soldier, lest thee be visited with verbal (and sometimes, physical) violence.

    And it is truly sad if this happens in a town which would not even exist were it not for the barracks in there.

    I have never been to any kind of war scenario – thank god for that – but by now, I got a oart of family that was. And I still am not sure if I should admire him for being there and being brave as he was, thank god that he survived or scold him for the callousness (I think it is) which led to the deaths of untold men and women.

    Personally, I think the second one.

    And I pray to God Almighty that my daughter – no, all our kids – never have to see the horrors of unchecked violence and death after someone stupid decides that someone else has something he wants. Which seems to me the most used reason for wars.

    • Andy says:

      Thanks for writing in. We seem of a similar mind on the subject. The US is a big place, so depending on where you are or who you talk to, opinions and social responses will vary pretty wildly, but generally I think that most Americans support our troops even if they hate conflict or wars. That’s really unfortunate that the attitude in your part of the world is so against its military.

  2. Tango says:

    While your quote is mostly correct, it is missing a little bit. This is my pet peeve and I apologize for it.

    “Among the Americans serving on Iwo island, uncommon valor was a common virtue.” — Adm. Chester A Nimitz

    Thank you for remembering those who’ve died doing what they did!

    • Andy says:

      It’s what was chiseled on the monument. I think they may have changed it in keeping with the fact that the names of the fallen were from the neighborhood. I’d prefer to think that, and that it wasn’t simply “arty” editing. I also dislike misquotes, especially when there was nothing wrong with them to begin with.

  3. Oildale Jones says:

    Whenever I need a good cry (or a good laugh), this is where I find it. Thank you.

    USMC 1988-1992

  4. Michelle says:

    Great story. I really loved the picture. It captures what Memorial Day is all about.

    • Andy says:

      I’m proud to have it in the electronic equivalent of our family album. I was so pleased to share the moment with our readers on this day of remembrance. 🙂

  5. Kathy V. says:

    I don’t like war, either — I would consider myself a quasi-pacifist, in that I believe that it’s important to have a strong defensive force, but I believe that it’s utterly wrong to use said force offensively. But I’m married to a Navy officer, and I understand his commitment (though I complain about it a lot). Thank you for not blaming those who serve for the crimes and bad judgment of those who send them to war. Not everyone is so understanding — we don’t tell people about our military affiliation until we’re sure that they won’t judge us adversely because of it. Happy Memorial Day; I plan to celebrate just as many of these young men would want me to — with hotdogs and beer. 😉

  6. Selena says:

    Beautiful Andy… What an amazing moment with your sweet boys.

  7. Laurie says:

    Seriously, what a cool moment! nice that you have photographic evidence too..Must have some great boys there!

  8. Taylor says:

    Amen. Great post.

  9. Someone says:

    Wow. This is really, really nice.

  10. Sometimes your kids can astound you with their sensitivity, can’t they? Good boys.

  11. Monica says:

    I am so proud of you Andy for taking the time to teach your boys about what it means to serve the country. My dad was a Marine. He fought for our freedom. We don’t have to agree with our government to know that it isn’t the soldiers fault. They are just trying to protect us.

    • Andy says:

      It’s my simple duty to the country I love, to honor and respect those whose job it is to keep it so. I would be lessening what I love to do otherwise.

  12. Kudos to you for being intentional about teaching your boys to respect and honor those that have paid the ultimate price to preserve our freedom. The art of showing reverence at memorials seems to be getting lost in our society. I remember visiting the Oklahoma City National Memorial and being appalled at how some parents allowed their kids to behave at such a hallowed place.

    Your boys are fortunate to have you leading them.

    • Andy says:

      These are very kind words. Thanks.

      As a side note that I found out after I posted this: General Patton was born in the city this park is in, San Morino. So, like so many things we experience in life, it was a greater moment than I even realized at the time.

  13. Christine Taylor says:

    I Pray When The Time Comes I Can Handle This As Beautifully As You. I Come From A Family Of Soldiers. My Grandpa Was In WWII, My Great-Uncle, Vietnam, My First Cousin, Desert Storm, His Brother Was In Bosnia And Iraq And Was Called Back After 9/11 To Afghanistan. There Are Uncles, Cousins, And Friends That All Have Fought And Praise God I Have Never Lost Them. Even Tho The Cousin In DS Was Diagnosed With Desert Storm Syndrome (Basically Cancer That Causes Birth Defects In Any Offspring) And His Children Had Mild Issues, I Am So Thankful They Are All Well And Alive. Every Branch Is Represented In My Little World Of People I Love And As Much As I Hate The Politics Behind War, I Am Proud To Be An American!

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