Veterans Day 2013 is the first Veterans Day without my dad. He passed away in January and in January, I mourned his loss with readers with a series of posts about my father. I still miss him and January seems like yesterday. I guess I will always miss him…
On days like today (Veterans Day, Thanksgiving, Pearl Harbor Day, Christmas, Easter, Memorial Day and his birthday) for the rest of my life, I will probably think of little stories about him. Here’s one for today:
When he was about 65, he was diagnosed with heart disease. He was hospitalized for a series of tests and an angiogram. During his hospitalization, he was visited by a representative of the Department of Veterans Affairs. This representative asked my father if he was receiving Veterans Benefits. My father said “no”. The rep asked him why not and my father responded by saying he wasn’t a veteran of a war, so didn’t believe he was qualified.
My father was a prisoner of war during World War II, incarcerated in a Japanese prison camp in the Philippines for 3 years. He was 12 years old when he and his family (parents, brother and sister) were rounded up and transferred to a camp, eventually transferring again to Los Banos. He and the other internees at Los Banos were rescued by American and Philippine soldiers on February 23, 1945. You can read his story here: Perspective: December 8, 1941.
So, while he was a prisoner of war in WWII, he did not serve in the armed forces because he was too young, thus not a “veteran”. And, he did not serve in the Korean War because he was 20-years-old and in college.
But, he did serve in Vietnam. Throughout his military career, the Vietnam War was classified a “conflict” instead of a “war”. So, with this nugget of differentiation, my father never viewed himself a “veteran” until visited by the representative of the Department of Veterans Affairs that day in the hospital when he was 65. He was 45-years-old when he retired from the Air Force. So, for 20 years, he did not consider himself a “veteran” nor did he collect veterans benefits.
Per his request, my father was buried at sea in January. This past Saturday, Charlie and I went to a beautiful little park in Poway, a sleepy bedroom community in San Diego County, to their Veterans Park to pay our respects. Here are some pictures of our visit:
Let freedom ring…
My brother is career military – Air Force Reserve. Charlie’s father (who passed away when Charlie was 7-years-old) served our country in World War II in the Army. Both of my uncles were in the Navy and served their countries. My brother-in-law served in the Air Force. So, to veterans everywhere:
Thank YOU for your service to our country!
Until Next Time,
(other posts about my father)
- Daddy’s Girl
- Dance Me to the End of Love
- HeART and Soul
- High Flight
- In the Arms of Love
- Love Begins at Home
- Perspective: December 8, 1941
- Remembering Grandpa
- Requiem for My Father
- Sons of My Father
- The Family Man