My Father's Legacy: Teaching Me Who the Real Heroes Are
June 11, 2007
<i>The following is a commentary by Carrie David Ford, editor of the Fort Jackson "Leader."</i>
WASHINGTON (Army News Service, June 11, 2007) - Happy Father's Day, Daddy.
In my 32 years, I've spoken those words probably 30 or 31 times; unfortunately, the past five, my dad hasn't been here to say, "Thanks kid." You see, my father - a Soldier, veteran and survivor - died in 2002.
His death has left a gaping hole in both my and my mother's lives. We were a small family, just the three of us, and an Army family at that. Our roots were shallow but my parents carefully planted them each time we moved, so that I would have a home and as "normal" a childhood as possible.
I remember my dad telling me, "home is where your heart is." Trite, I know, but it was a mantra repeated with each permanent change of station, and when I finally realized what he meant, I knew he had told me a truth. Home wasn't the apartment or house or street or town where we lived. Home was my mother and father and me and the possessions that detailed our life - all the ingredients we - as a mobile, military family - needed to make a home, whether in Fort Gulick, Panama; Fort Bragg, N.C.; or Wildflecken, Germany.
My father, Kenneth David, was a retired chief warrant officer. He spent more than 20 years serving this country, which included a tour in Vietnam. My father fought for someone else's freedom, just as today's Soldiers are doing. He knew that by trying to secure freedom for another country, he was helping to protect the United States.
After retiring in 1992, he spent another 10 years serving the veterans of our Armed Forces as a veterans service officer. This was a position he took very seriously. He believed veterans and their families deserved respect, and he worked diligently to help them - whether with loans, G.I. Bill benefits, or a flag and color guard for a military funeral. He reinvigorated the Memorial Day and Veterans Day services held on the county courthouse lawn so veterans would be honored and remembered - as they should be.
He worked countless hours establishing a veteran's museum detailing northern Alabama's military heroes dating back to the Revolutionary War. The shame, though, is that he never got to see the final product. He was in intensive care when the museum's grand opening took place in November 2002, and never left the hospital alive.
My father taught me many things besides the meaning of home. He taught me the importance of family and of sticking together. He taught me there is no shame in losing, so long as you play your best and go out again for the next game. He taught me that there are things worth fighting for, even when you try to live a peaceful life. He taught me that I am free because of the sacrifices of others.
He also taught me what defines a hero - the regular person doing extraordinary things without thought for gain, and facing terrifying and uncertain situations with courage and calm. He taught me that Soldiers are heroes, and if he were still with us, he would be so proud of our Army, his Army, and all of its heroes.
My father was and will always be my hero, so to him, Happy Father's Day, daddy. And, to all of the other Army dads who are someone's hero, both at home and abroad, Happy Father's Day.
(Carrie David Ford is editor of the Fort Jackson "Leader.")