Friday, November 11, 2011

Never Forgotten

Photo credit: Megan Westfall
Before he passed away two years ago, I used to have my daughters call my father on Veteran’s Day. At the age of 16, he left home and joined the Navy. He put in 20 years of service, retiring at the ripe old age of 36. He then went on to become a vocational education teacher and put in another 20 years of service in that career as well.
My daughters had a school concert this week. It had a patriotic theme in honor of the upcoming holiday and turned out very nice. (I have a hard time listening to Taps, though, as it brings me right back to my father’s funeral.) The superintendent issued a challenge to the students there. He asked them to write down the reason we celebrate Veteran’s Day and bring the explanation into school the next day. He said he would make it worth their while, but didn’t say what he was offering. On the way home, I told my daughters that they should simply bring in a photo of their grandfather and tell the superintendent that’s the reason we celebrate Veteran’s Day.  At home, I hunted up an old photo of him in his Navy uniform and handed it to my daughter to put in her backpack.
My dad had colon cancer around 2005 and then developed lung cancer later which he died from in 2009. Although he fought bravely, eventually he knew he would not win the final battle. So he packed up all his photographs and memorabilia he had collected over the years and gave them to me. I have a large box (really more trunk-sized) of the stuff he gave me. All I have left of him is in that box. While digging through the box to find the photo for my daughter, I had the idea of arranging a collage of items related to his Navy career. The above photo (credited to my daughter) is what resulted.
While deciding what items to include in the collage, I picked up his Navy yearbook and thumbed through it. I noticed that he had carefully gone through the book and turned down each page that contained a photograph of him. He knew that he would not always be around to point these out in the future, but his gesture let me know that he never wants to be forgotten.

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