While growing up, I was always aware that my dad was a Marine. He had joined the Corps immediately after graduating high school in 1962. He did his training in California and Hawaii. Even volunteering to be in the first wave of Marines to be sent to Vietnam for the conflict that had erupted.
As a child, I was always curious about what he did. He would only tell me he did radio recon. I can remember saying, “That was dangerous, the radio guys always die first in the movies.” But when pressed, dad would never give details about his service or his time at war. He had a few scars on his legs and they were from an injury he received in Vietnam, but that is the only story he would ever tell.
The only other thing you could easily get from him was the fact that he was proud to be a Marine. He felt like it was the best thing he could have done for himself, it made him into a better man and he thought his kids should go into the military. The only thing that kept me from joining was my asthma, if it weren’t for that, he would have had me signing up right after high school. Now, dad didn’t make the service his career; he had been unhappy with the way Vietnam was handled and felt it best to get out. He met my mother and started a family, but he was a card-carrying member of the VFW until his death in 1993. He was immensely patriotic and very supportive of the military, that never wavered.
I have always been proud to tell people that my dad was a Marine. I have a Marine cup and collect Marine memorabilia. But I have to be honest, earlier this year my heart swelled when I was provided some information that I previously did not know. I assist with HR duties in our office, and I was helping to onboard a new associate. This gentleman happened to be a retired Marine and, of course, I proudly announced that my dad was a Marine. When this gentleman asked what my dad did in the service, I told him. The gentleman began to smile and said, “You have no idea what you just said to me, do you?”
It seems that the unit my dad was a part of, the reconnaissance group, would be considered Special Forces. The reason my dad used to be taken ten miles out on a submarine and made to swim back to shore, he was part of an elite group of Marines. Almost a parallel to the SEALS that were formed about the same time. I always thought my dad was a hero because he was my dad, but now it seems he was really a hero for the type of work he did in the military. The idea that my dad was Special Forces now makes sense as to why he would never talk about his military career. I began to do research on his unit and had to stop, the stories I found were unreal, and I began to wonder if he was on any of these missions.
So, while I honor my Marine every day and honor what he did for our country, I hold my head a little higher this year knowing his role was different than I ever imagined. I wish you were here for me to salute you in person! Love you, Dad, miss you terribly!