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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Living in a free country comes at a price

My dad served in the Vietnam War. He was a medic. He used to send tapes back to my mom. She said you could here the bombs exploding in the background...
My dad came back a changed man. A haunted man. A man with demons that he used alcohol to chase away. He became an alcoholic. An abusive alcoholic. My childhood memories of him run the whole spectrum from immense love to total terror. Sometimes a locked door was the only thing that saved me...sometimes his arms were the only thing that brought me comfort. Funny how forgiving and resilient kids are, huh?
When I was 12, my parents finally divorced. My dad had added transgressions to his wedding vows to his list of offenses, and my mom finally had enough. She never stopped loving him though. Never. She still loves him. We all do.
My dad stopped drinking to the point of drunkenness on his own. A plethora of events led up to it. And for many years he did well. Our fragile, damaged relationship was restored, and he was part of our lives and the lives of his first two grandchildren.
But then something changed.
The story is way too complex for me to go into...
He now has no contact with any of us. Not his brothers. Not me. Not my brother. Not my sister. Not any of his five grandchildren.
He skipped his own father's funeral because his children were attending.
I am sharing all this, not to malign my father at all, but to make a point. Today is Veteran's Day. We tend to recognize the the high price of freedom when someone dies fighting in a war. Especially when it is on foreign soil. Especially when it's questionable as to whether their presence is even desired there.
But we forget that some come back alive on the outside, but dying on the inside. For some families, the grieving process of losing a loved one is as long as their tortuously slow descent into madness takes. You don't lose them once and forever, but a little bit more every day.
I don't know what's wrong with my dad. I don't know where he is living now...or if he's even alive at all.
But I know I'm terribly proud of him and the sacrifices he, and all the other men who served with him or who have every served in the military, have made. They walk the walk and talk the talk, showing ultimate and complete obedience to God and Country, doing what they believe is right and disregarding the personal cost. They pay dearly...whether with their lives on the battlefield, or with their nightmares for years to come, or with their mysterious and unexplainable illnesses, or lost limbs, or families torn apart...They pay dearly that we all might live. And live in freedom.
Thanks Dad.
And thanks to all the Veterans out there.

And Dad, just in case you are reading this, I love you. More than words can say. I miss you terribly. You have 5 wonderful grandkids who would love to know you. You are welcome back in our lives at any time, and with total forgiveness. It's not too late. And thanks again for all your sacrifices.
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10 comments:

Cheryl said...

wow... I'll be praying...

DebiH. said...

Thank you for an honest reminder of what Veteran's Day is about.

Anonymous said...

Wow, I will pray for you and your family

Lady G~ said...

*tears streaming* I know many who's dad/brother/son came back changed. Your post was right on target. We never know how much others are hurting.

You and your family are in my prayers.

Tiffany said...

You made me cry...
I so appreciate your honesty and the realness. We forget about the lives ruined by the horror that these men experience.

Julie said...

People may disagree, but this is one of my points about there being more than one "life"-issue to think about when we vote.

cindy said...

This brough tears to my eyes. Thanks for a realistic portrayal of what our military and their families go through.

Randi Sue said...

We need to be reminded. I am praying for your dad.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for saying this. I am an "Air Force" brat myself and yes, freedom does come at a price. The families in the military pay an awful lot of that price. The military men pay it too.

amy w.

Grammy said...

Beautifully spoken! Thank you for your tribute to all who serve our great nation. Freedom isn't free!
I'll pray for your dad and your family.God Bless you!