Sunday, May 24, 2009

Notes From My Father's Eulogy

Okay, you're afraid of a depressing, ponderous, mournful post here, and I Humbly do not blame you. Rest assured, Humble Reader, that I will try to keep this from being a dirge.

My father served in the Navy for 22 years, retiring as a Master Chief Petty Officer after relinquishing his Warrant--his officer status--to gain a greater set of retirement benefits for his family, not for his own prestige.

A navy career is almost always a great sacrifice. Either your family stays home waiting months for your return, or sometimes they don't wait, and you lose your family. Some sailors just don't start a family, putting it off until the leave the service. In all of these, the serviceman (or woman) makes a huge sacrifice. It's not unique to the Navy, but it's probably the worst service for family.

The sacrifice is often just as great a load upon the family of the serviceman as it is on himself. The proper place for a husband and father is at home, not floating in a boat halfway around the world. It is so hard, you can barely imagine it if you have not lived through it. On top of the deprivation of half of the parental support, there are frequent relocations. Imagine what happens to kids whose efforts to make new friends is completely wasted, demolished, because their father was assigned to a new duty base. Imagine what happens to these children after the 3rd or 4th time, how they just give up on having friends. Imagine the loneliness. If you do, you have a small idea of the sacrifices made by a serviceman and his family.

My father made those sacrifices. My family made those sacrifices. Why? For the furtherance of my father's career? To gain prestige, status, rank, pay, authority, or personal sense of accomplishment? NO! My father paid this price to keep his family, his homeland, his nation free and safe. Dad was the best at what he did--it doesn't matter what his specialty was, he was a professional, and one of the best in the world at his occupation--and he chose not to leave his assigned tasks to a lesser person.

As I said in front of a room full of friends and family, part of the reason they were there to honor him, part of the reason they were safe and free and alive, was because my father and millions of servicemen like him, made sacrifices.

I asked those at the service who had served to please stand, and help me honor my father. They stood. And then something happened that I was not expecting.

Everyone there who was sitting, applauded.

To the servicemen out there who have made sacrifices in honorable service to this nation, AND to the families who have made sacrifices, as well, I Humbly salute you, just as I and those standing in the church saluted my father.

Sacrifice, service, and honor. For all these, all you get is a flag on your casket.

And the sincere gratitude of more people than you would ever believe.