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Happy Veterans Day, Dad

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November 11th, 2011

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I was born in 1964, the oldest of four kids.  I don’t remember seeing a whole lot of my dad when I was young.  He was a pilot in the Air Force and spent three of my early childhood years in Vietnam, and a lot of other time flying here and there.

I vividly remember waiting for my dad to get off of a plane from Southeast Asia in 1972 – one of the 175,000 servicemen and women who also came home from Vietnam between 1971 and 1972.  We stood surrounded by a small group of other excited, happy and anxious parents and children – some of whom would meet their father for the first time, my sister among them.  I remember wondering if I would recognize my dad.  Communication was much tougher back then – before digital cameras, and the internet and Skype and iPads.  I did recognize him, of course – but my younger siblings took a few days to get reacquainted with this “stranger.”
I remember talking to my parents that day – how lucky we were.  My parents had friends whose husbands did not come home.  I had friends whose fathers did not come home and never would.  My parents told me 58,000 fathers did not come home.  I knew that number was a lot – but it didn’t mean nearly as much to me then as it does now.
 
Our homecoming was a happy experience.  But I remember sitting around the television that night and watching images of many people who weren’t happy that my dad and other soldiers were coming home, safe and sound, to their families.  They held signs that said terrible things.  They yelled mean things – things that, as an 8-year-old, I didn’t understand.  But nothing could change the fact that my dad was a hero to me.
 
Many people did not like the war, back then, and for some reason, their anger was directed to those who either volunteered to serve our country, or who were drafted into service.
 
A couple days ago I flew home from Florida, and the flight attendants thanked the men and women of our armed forces who were on the flight for their service.  The entire plane cheered.
 
To all of you who have served our country and fought for my freedom – if you did not hear the cheers back then – I hope you hear them now.
Happy Veterans Day.

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