I’m going to share something personal. And so this will be a tough post to share. As I sit here, contemplating what to say, I feel my heart swell and my eyes fill with big droplets of water. That happens every time I think about it, not because it’s painful or awkward, but because I have such deep and intense feelings about this subject.
I’ll give you a hint…
“A hero is someone
who has given
his or her life
bigger than oneself.”
– Joseph Campbell
Having a positive role-model, a “hero” can be essential in molding and shaping the outcome of our lives.
I have a Hero, who has taught me a lot, but perhaps some of my most powerful observations have come from just watching him live his life. He is…
my dad. I wrote about him recently when he was invited to go to Washington DC for an Honor Flight with 66 WWII Veterans.
Then last week, he and my little sister packed their bags and headed to the airport for the trip of their lives.
When they got there, singers greeted them in 40’s period clothing and hairdos, singing upbeat 40’s music. My dad broke into the jitterbug. Not bad for an 85 year old man. 🙂 That’s pretty impressive, but isn’t what makes my heart melt when I think of him. I’ll tell you more, but first I want to share a little bit of his story.
War wasn’t new to him. He grew up in Key West, Florida, near a military Base during WWII. As a young teen, his dad was off fighting the war. In the battle at Pearl Harbor his dad’s eardrums were ruptured by explosions, he never got his hearing back, but survived. Sadly, many of his comrades were killed right before his eyes.
My dad also watched his favorite uncle, Bob, head off to war and was eager for him to return. He never did. News came back that Bob had been killed in a tank in Germany and his body was never recovered.
Hearing those stories didn’t stop my dad though. In fact, they made him even more determined to throw himself into that war, maybe it was his way of making sure that Bob wasn’t killed in vain. At the same time, he was committed to fight for our freedoms and to make this world a better place.
So at the age of 16, he headed over to the Military Base and lied about his age, hoping they’d enlist him in anyway. They didn’t.
A year later, just after turning 17, he went back to the Base, even more determined. He was a skinny, scrawny kid and when the recruiter put him on the scale, he didn’t weigh enough. He was about to turn him away again, but saw something in my Dad, so he pulled him aside.
He told him to come back in the morning after eating an entire stock of bananas and a gallon of water. Of course my dad did exactly that and showed up at the base in the morning, about ready to pop. He was still a beanpole, but looked about 10 months pregnant. He almost hit the minimum weight requirement on the scale. The recruiter eyed him down, then said, “Young, you’re in.” My dad was thrilled and sped over to the nearest bathroom.
He dropped out of high school and went off to war. Two months later, the war ended (thank goodness!)
Later, he served in Guam where he became very close to the guys in his battalion and loved the island of Guam. So when an assignment came for him to move to Utah, he wasn’t really thrilled. A couple weeks later, the Korean War broke out he heard his entire battalion (from Guam) was sent out to fight. He yearned to be with them, but news came back soon after that every one of them had been killed. He was crushed.
War is the saddest thing, and there really aren’t any winners. I can’t even begin to imagine the pain my dad has experienced because of war. But he picked himself up and moved forward each time, still determined to make this world a better place.
Later he went on and not only finished his schooling, but also retired from 20 years of serving his country. After that, he went on to get a Doctorate Degree in Psychology. The perfect degree for someone so driven to help others.
Last night, the Honor Flight returned back home. I was thrilled to go down to welcome him home. It was a wonderful reunion for all of us, with lots of happy tears. I’m so proud of my Daddy. But in his usual way, he managed to teach me even more.
So many people came up and thanked him, I could tell they had been touched. That’s just my dad, everyone who meets him loves him, and it’s not because of what he says, but it’s about how he makes them feel.
And of course, the highlights of his trip were about others. The group of 66 Veterans were greeted and thanked non-stop everywhere they went. It wasn’t the fanfare that melted his heart, but the outpouring of patriotism from so many people. That was probably the greatest gift my Dad could receive, it truly meant the world to him.
(Here is a video my nephew, Tanner, put together of the Honor Flight, of course it made me cry!)
My Dad visited with all of the heroes on that Honor Flight and listened intently to each of their stories. One in particular really impacted him. A Veteran told how he had dropped the bomb over Heroshima. My dad could tell the guilt this man had carried was unsurmountable. So naturally, he pulled him aside and began to counsel with him. It’s crazy how people are brought into our lives for a reason. I really believe this was one of those times, I actually believe he has been brought into many lives because he has such a powerful gift of helping them. Ironically, after World War II, my dad had been sent to Japan for several years, so he was able to share stories of Japanese men telling him, through tear streamed faces, that the bombing of Heroshima was the greatest thing that the US could have done. It was a hard loss, but it ended the war and prevented millions of more deaths.
My dad could see that his stories were helpful and what this man had needed so badly, but he could also tell that there was still underlying pain. He did all he could to help this man be relieved of the burden he had born. Then he visited with the man’s son, and assured him that his dad was indeed a hero. He went on to ask the son to go home and let all of his family members know that he had done the right thing, and was a true Hero.
So what I want to share most of all, is how I felt last night as I drove home.
My heart was deeply touched by my hero once again. In his mild and loving little way, he again inspired me to do better, to reach outside of myself, to be better, and to not just watch for opportunities to touch peoples lives, but to constantly make those happen. I know because of his example that the only way I can truly find myself is through finding others and the rest will fall into place.
I am so grateful for Heroes. I’m so grateful for those who have carried burdens we can’t even imagine, those who are willing to give all that they are to make things better. In every country, in every land, we find Heroes. I’m so grateful for their inspiration, their vision, their unselfish desires, and all that they are willing to do, to be, and to give, in order to make things better for every one of us.
I hope more than anything, that what I can gain from rubbing shoulders with such a great Hero, is that maybe, somehow, I can learn to be like my Hero, and I can carry on that beautiful legacy. That everyone in my wake can walk away feeling better about themselves and truly loved, appreciated and valued.
We are so blessed to have Heroes, who are yours, how do they inspire you, and what are your thoughts?!! Please share!
We are so blessed to have wonderful Heroes in our lives,
We love you!!
Laurie & Tiffany