Saturday, November 9, 2013

Once a Marine, Always a Marine ~ But I called him daddy

November 19, 1935 - March 20, 2013
Courage is endurance for one moment more.....
(Unknown Marine Second Lieutenant in Vietnam)
On March 20, 2013 my father drew his last breath on earth. 
It was pancreatic cancer that eventually stilled his heart and drew the light from his eyes and took his wise words and silenced them once and for all.
After living 77 years, serving in the Marine Corps for 20 of those years, fighting 5 tours in Vietnam and raising a family, he passed from an invisible enemy that no weapon can fight effectively.
Our grief was postponed for 7 months.  We grieved when we spoke to one another.  We grieved privately, within our hearts or when we forgot he was no longer there and picked up the phone to call and tell him of a golf game one, to give a grandchild report or to simply talk.
It takes a long time to get into Arlington National Cemetery.  And as exceptional as we thought my father was, we waited just like everyone else.  
The day arrived 7 months and 3 days later.  It was a gorgeous fall day. 
His family gathered at the Administration Building. Hugs, condolences and the freedom to express our grief had finally come.  We looked at one another and were amazed that he did not stand with us. The oldest of his brothers and sisters.
And he was gone.
When the time came to line up the processional, I rode with his wife in the lead car.
We climbed a hill and then turned a corner.
In front of us was a full band.
Two platoons of a Marine Color Guard.
All waiting on a field of green with a blue sky, The Washington Monument and all of Washington DC as the backdrop.
At first, I thought we had intruded on a funeral for a General.
But I was told
This is for your dad.
So I got out of the car and came to stand behind the caisson with the rest of the mourners. 
Two Marines took my father's ashes and the American flag and placed them into the horse drawn caisson while the band played and the Color Guard stood at attention.
My brothers and I then linked arms.
And we walked the last of my father's journey, with him, to his final earthly resting place.
His brothers, sisters, grandchildren and great grandchildren walked behind as well.  Each remembering and honoring a man who had loved them and who would have been embarrassed to have been recognized so publicly.
My brothers and I are the last of our family.
With both parents now gone, we stand.
Diana Gabaldon, an author that I love, said it best,
"Someone is never truly gone so long as there are two people who know-
one to tell the story and another to hear it."
So I came here to tell a part of the story.
The part of the story where a man lived, a man fought, then a man died.
But he was so much more.
Goodbye Daddy. 



  1. Dear friend,
    My father was in the Navy. He was buried in the National Cemetery here in Jacksonville. I have an idea of what your day was like. Yet I think the whole Arlington thing with Marines at their finest, was so much more. I do know what it's like to say goodbye to your father, to hold the box of ashes, to sit under a tent, listen to taps, shudder as each rifle volley goes off, watch as the flag is folded, cry when it is presented, and kneel in the wet ground after the burial. I think it's weird to say but I'm glad you've had this goodbye. Grief is a journey that takes many twists and turns. Take it slow and be gentle with yourself and others. Thank you for sharing this story. And, thanks to your dad for his dedicated service. He deserved this beautiful farewell.

  2. Just stopping in to say hello. This could be a hard time and if it is, I encourage you to find what works for you and do it, without guilt or explanation. I saw this on a friend (and grief coach) sight. Thought you might be interested. Click on the Grief and holidays tab under events. I'm thinking anything that has to do with markers could be better than fighting a crowd at the mall. May you be blessed with a heart at peace.