16 June 2013

DAD - THE RARE BREED

DAD - THE RARE BREED
by Andy Weddington
Sunday, 16 June 2013 - Father's Day


"The child is father of the man." William Wordsworth
Every human being, no exceptions, has a father - that's biology 101. Some human beings are fortunate to have a Dad - that's far more than biology; every "ology" I can think of comes to mind. And that's despite how the terms are defined, swappable, in the dictionary.

What follows is one ever so brief example of a Dad.
My Dad and I share not only blood but a middle name - Franklin. I am at least the fourth generation to carry it, and proudly so.

My Dad is not a Marine. But, he raised two Marines and has a Marine grandson. Per Marine Corps customs, that qualifies him, and Mom, as part of the Marine Corps family. They display Corps stickers on their cars, and sometimes sport emblazoned attire.

Dad served in the Air Force as an enlisted man for ten years - 1954 - 1964; a technical expert working on missiles and aircraft and communications gear and such. Think of the time frame - Cold War - tense times.  

Living in Altus, Oklahoma, and attending first grade at Will Rogers Elementary (the school, likely not the same building, is still there and has a website), we drilled by taking shelter under our desks.  For children incapable of understanding the nuclear threat, it was fun but not a game; enemies were playing extreme multidimensional chess. Civilized man was on the brink of self-destruction.

I have memories of my Dad in uniform. I wish they were stronger but I was only seven when he decided family, wife and at the time four sons, came first. A daughter soon followed.

Growing up, Dad, though never pressuring any of his children to serve in the military, occasionally talked about his experiences and friendships. They made an impression - perhaps that was his intent. I met some of those people. The Mitchell family for one. Another Air Force family, named Thayer, who'd first been a Marine family, is the most vivid - we visited their home in Georgia. I remember my Dad and Jim Thayer had a beer or two late one evening at the kitchen table and reminisced. Military photos lined walls. I remember. Years later Jim Thayer and his wife visited our family when passing through North Carolina. I had yet to graduate high school and was not yet thinking about military service.

And I remember while growing up, more than once Dad said he felt a man was incomplete if not having had the military experience. But it was just a comment, a thought - not a push.

As it turned out, three of his four sons retired from military service - officers - Marine, Marine/Navy, and Coast Guard. The other was medically not qualified otherwise he'd have been a Sailor - boot camp was as far as he got. I remember his disappointment.

And his daughter, ironically, married an Air Force man, from an Air Force family. He, a fighter jock, sometimes wears Marine T-shirts (I've given him) - when feeling particularly manly.  

Thinking back, way back, the military influence, though not overwhelming while growing up, undeniable. How could there not possibly be an influence? For the military experience is life changing - for the individual and the family.

Older now and retired from military service, I, as a youth and sometimes more headstrong than my parents deserved, have labored over how to synthesize all the things my Dad taught me - from drawing to painting to fishing to riding a bicycle to playing football to hunting to pitching horseshoes to playing chess to camping to building balsa wood model planes to changing the oil in a car to repairing things mechanical to fly fishing to problem-solving to patience (his unique way) to being a responsible citizen to more things than I can recall and have room to cite.

But my laboring is over.

What my Dad, a man's man, taught me, in five words? How to be a man. He, and Mom, prepared me for life - and being a Marine. And they did it by teaching and through example. In our home, there was no gray area between right and wrong. And you did your best, at whatever. Teamwork!

As he now fights for life, through a horrible disease, and awaits remedy but not cure, he (and Mom) still, by example, is teaching me. And, though afar, I am paying close attention.

Fly fishing gear's ready - whenever you are, Dad. Until then, see you soon. And Mom, too.

Family and friends know him as Harry and Sonny and Fuzz. But, he'll always just be "Dad" to me - "Happy Father's Day, Dad!"

Semper Fidelis,

Andy, your eldest  
  


Dad
Harry F. Weddington, Jr. 
Staff Sergeant, U. S. Air Force
April 2007 fly fishing for trout on the San Juan River, NM



Sons Andy (left w/ 1st trout) & Steve
Presque Isle, Maine
(Birthplace of third son, Ken - Marine/Sailor)
(Fourth son, Pete, was born in Altus and baby sister, Karen, North Carolina.)


Post Script

I learned a few years back that my Dad's uncle (his Dad's brother and fishing buddy when growing up) served in the U. S. Army during World War II - he was a young man, a private, and landed in the first waves on D-Day (I forget if beach head Omaha or Utah - does it matter?!). Somehow, he survived the entire campaign. My regret is not knowing this family history before he died and not having had opportunity to talk to him about his ordeals.

My Dad's grandfather served in the U. S. Army - World War I era. Some think I bear a physical resemblance - I see it, but he was handsome.

And, not to be overlooked, my wife serves in the Navy - just like her Dad (World War II) and oldest brother; neither of whom are still alive but are thought of daily. "Happy Father's Day, Big Bob. You, too, Bobby - Chief. We miss you!"



Robert "Bob" F. Sommer
Seaman/Yeoman, U. S. Navy (WWII)
18 x 24 oil on canvas (artist: the author)

Author's Endnotes

1. So goes life, my wife and I were not blessed with children. The title "Dad" never to be mine nor "Mom" for my wife. So, some things we shall never understand about the parent child relationship - at least from the parent perspective. But we do our best to be a good uncle and aunt - to live by example. That, too, is no easy responsibility.


2. Wordsworth's opening quote I learned from a longtime close friend, a Marine - his Dad, a Marine, cited it often. And though his Dad no longer walks amongst us he remains a giant - his son thinks of him every day. Of course.

3. I concur a man void the military experience is incomplete - though they are incapable of fully understanding the void. A Marine general, a Cajun, Major General Ron Richard, USMC (Retired) - whom I hold in high regard - often humbly said, "I don't know what I don't know." So goes life, decision-making, and freedom in America. However, the military experience - one of the last bastions of a proving ground for young men - known to generations is being destroyed, from within, in the name of equality under the guise of gender neutrality; and it has nothing to do with strengthening readiness for national security. And therefore, today, recommending military service is not something comfortable (for me and, as I am hearing more and more, for many Marines). Will our government's befuddling social experiments - not tinkering with but redesigning warfighting forces - work? Time inevitably but war certainly will settle the debate. That's assured. But at what cost?

4 comments:

ak said...

Thoroughly enjoyed your article Colonel. If ever on occasion you do speak with MGen Richard please give him my best regards, he is truly a great American and a Marine that I will always respect and hold in high esteem.

A Colonel of Truth said...

Thanks, Master Guns, for tuning in and the note. Will do when next crossing paths with the general. Looking forward to Jul 2014.

Jim Bathurst said...

Very, very well put Sir! Ron Richard was G3-OPS while I was G3-T in Second Div under a true warrior and gentleman, "OK" Steele (1987-88). Thank you for such fine words.

Jim Bathurst said...

Amen! Very, very well put Colonel! Ron Richard was G-3OPS while I was G-3T in Second Division under a true warrior and a gentleman, "OK" Steele (1987-88)