Wednesday, June 11, 2008

My Father's Story

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!


jackie said...

I enjoyed reading the beautiful story about your dad! He is truly a hero!
I also appreciate all of the great images that you so generously share!
jackie smith

shauna said...

Your story of your dad's life brought tears to my eyes and a lump to my throat. What a wonderful father and man in general he is! Some of his early life and certainly his character reminds me of my own fantastic dad who crossed over 9 years ago. I miss him like crazy! Thank you for honoring your father in this way and sharing a bit of him with others!

peggy gatto said...

I love reading stories like this! What history is there that might be missed and you said it beautifully! He sounds alot like my dad. Honesty and loyalty being high on his list. thanks!

Sandie R said...

Thank you so much Elizabeth for sharing that wonderful story of your Dad. He sounds like the perfect roll model to follow.

sandee said...

I need a tissue...that was such a touching story.

Cathee said...

What a heritage your Dad has given you and our nation! Wonderful story..what a guy! Cathee S
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christygrant said...

I LOVE this story about your dad. What a tremendous story and man. My dad was in WWII, also. He was an MP and helped people out of Dauchau (sp?). He won't talk about it, even at almost 83 years old, and I fear his story there is going to be lost to us. But, he, too, came back determined to make a better life for himself and his family. He went from mailboy to vice president in a major company and put God and his church first in his life. We always felt protected and loved. He is still my hero.

Lisa Nelson said...

So beautiful, touching and sweet. A wonderful tribute and very well written. It was a joy to read. Thank you! Lisa

francine a. said...

Elizabeth, I really like your blog, so much useful stuff here. Love the recipes and I can't wait to try the peach bread. Your father was an exceptional man, we can tell from your story about him and your mother as well. My father was in Korea and would not talk much about it, except to say it hurt him to see the little kids on the side of the road starving. He is gone now and I can't spend Father's day with him, but reading your tribute to your father was a close second and makes me feel much better. Thanks for that.

MrsL said...

What a wonderful tribute.

ScaryCheri said...

Many thanks to your Dad and the men like him who fought to keep us free. Thank you for sharing your Dad's story with us. Hugz, Scary

Lesley Riley said...

This is a beautiful story and tribute to your Dad. I just read it to my Dad and he loved it. He was shot down about 2 months before D-Day and spent 13 months in Stalag 13. He jokingly says D-Day was the US attempt to liberate him for his birthday, June 6th.

Your Dad and mine sound very similar. We are probably both very special people having been raised by such special men.