One of the happiest memories I have as a child is sitting on my father’s lap and listening to him tell me stories about his time in the Army. My father was a commander of an Artillery company in the 82nd Airborne Division. Once, he told me about a time in Turkey where he saw a man walking a black bear down the street. I can never forget the look on his face as he told stories from this chapter of his life. There was air of joy, pride, and excitement.
My father was a man that took risks, loved life, and more than all, loved people. He taught elementary school and night classes to adults. He went to communities where others wouldn’t, and worked with the kids for free. He dedicated a year of his life to assisting with logistics for the Million Man March. He spent his free time later in life practicing the guitar. Then, 4 years later, he was on the stage at a concert with thousands in attendance, while he played with Erykah Badu. How do I know these things? Because every step of the way I was there by his side. He showed me how to live by example.
Because of his influence, I joined the Army when I got out of high school. My experiences in the Army were starkly different from my fathers. I spent quite a bit of time in Iraq, and even more time recovering from numerous injuries. When I finally was medically retired from the Army, my new family and I decided to put our roots down in North Carolina, just 10 minutes from my father. He was diagnosed with cancer in March of 2008 and died just 2 months later in May.
The time we spent together during those last months shaped me into the man I am today. The love, respect and empathy I have for my fellow man was engrained in my personality after being wounded in Iraq and my father’s illness. I believe the sum of a person’s experiences is what makes them who they are, and I hope my experiences make me half the man my father was. Happy Father’s Day, Dad!