Wednesday, June 11, 2008
In honor of Father's Day I would like to share some of my father's story. Every person you meet or see has a story. If you really look and listen you will find each one in their own way fascinating.
Growing up my Dad was just my Dad. He taught me to ride my bike, carried me on his shoulder's and when I got out of line gave me "the look". All the things Dad's do with their kids. He was our hero.
In fact, he really is a hero. When you are young you hear the stories. They are stories, but they are true. As I grew and learned more of the world, the stories began to take on more meaning. The stories came from my Mom and other relatives. Dad would answer a question or when we were being silly he would show me the chunk he had bit off on the side of his tongue "when he jumped out of an airplane". He didn't always want to share some parts of his life. It was now that was important.
I grew up and began my own family. The boys were like stair steps. They became interested in army and playing war. This is when I began to learn my father's story. It was time to tell.
My Dad grew up in Florida. His early life was happy till all was lost in the depression.His family was split up and his mother died. Two children went to live with their grandmother. The others with their father. My Dad and his older brother went to live with their grandmother. They worked before school and after school activities. My Dad was able to get a scholarship and go to college. Then the war broke out.
Central Florida had two flight schools. Both of my uncles taught there. One of them joined the army and was a plane mechanic, the other taught the young pilots to fly. My Dad was one of those pilots. Before he shipped out he went home and married the beauty queen - my Mom. She was Miss Florida and was working hard raising money selling bonds for the war and promoting tourism in Florida. Dad shipped out and Mom went to college and waited for news of my father.
My Dad flew the p47 thunderbolt and the 51 Mustang. He flew 48 missions before he was shot down on D-Day over France. It is thought he might have been the last plane shot down that day. He parachuted out with a parachute doing screwy things, hence the bitten tongue and a broken sternum he did not find out about till his 80's. Having parachuted out he landed in a small village in France. He hid for two days in a garbage pit till a villager took him home. Shortly thereafter the German troops showed up and took him as a prisoner of war. He was taken to Stalag Luft III. You might remember that this is where the movie "The Great Escape" took place. It also was one of the many prison camps that suffered in "the March" to escape the invasion of Germany by the Russians. Miraculously my Dad made it through "the March" and was liberated by Patton some months later.
With the war over, my Dad returned home to his waiting wife and family. His grandmother had died while he was in prison camp. Dad went back to school and got his law degree. He had agreed to go to Washington if his friend Syd Herlong won the congressional seat. It was a heady time. My mother, Miss Florida, now modeling and my Dad working as a legislative aid which took him to the Pentagon then back to the Senate. Making friends and meeting Presidents and future presidents. Helping to write bills that introduced two new states and affected the poll tax. Helped to open trade to China. He has worked tirelessly for charities and the church. Accepting another job with a major US Corporation. It has been a good life. I could go on but the point is......
He came back from the war and set about to make a better life, a better world for this country and his family without asking for anything more than that. This generation of men helped change the world. They made better cars, faster airplanes, built roads, dams and bridges, changed our medical system. It was explosive growth.
I don't know about all of the men, but I do know my Dad did it with honesty and class. He is a true diplomat. I have never heard a mean word towards anyone come out of his mouth. I have watched him love and cherish my mom for almost sixty five years. He is the standard I use in my life when I think of a"good man". When I was young and starting to venture out into the world alone, my Dad said "Don't do anything you can't tell your Mom or I about and you will be all right." Guess what those words still ring in my head and I am trying to get them to ring in my own children's head.
So "thank you" Dad for being the best example a daughter could ever possibly have for a man. Happy Father's Day!
Posted by Elizabeth Golden at 11:20 PM