Basically, they are human and have their mistakes and bad days when nothing goes their way. Some even have bad years when nothing goes their way. But these heroes never back down and keep trying to fight the good fight.
- In my experience, a hero just does something heroic when it matters.
I know of two heroes, aka Veterans, in my own immediate family. The first is my grandfather, Frederick Trenton Petitt; and the second is my very own father, David Lloyd Slater.
Grandpa Petitt was my mother's father and served in two wars, the Korean War and WWII. He was also a P.O.W. for several years, captured in Nazi-occupied Hungary.Grandpa was a turret gunner when his B-52 was gunned down. After surviving a plane crash, he was captured, then starved for several years and believed to be dead by his family, including his first wife and two young sons. By the time he returned, they were missing and never heard from again. He soon married my grandmother, who was only 16 and living in an orphanage with her two younger siblings.
My father, David, was a Veteran of the Vietnam Conflict, serving at the very young age of 18 in the Marines. He passed away of leukemia in January of 1985, just a week before I turned 12, leaving behind 5 small children. Though I was too young to understand the sacrifices they made at that time in my life, I get it now.
For some reason, we were not encouraged to read in my house and other than church resources, there was nary a book in sight. Thankfully, I married an adamant reader with a mother and sister who worked as bonafide librarians. For this reason and the proximity of our first apartment, I always had easy access to a world of learning. One day, very much out of character, I checked out a pretty hefty book about the Vietnam Conflict and read it cover to cover. Up until then, I'd skimmed assigned reading assignments in high school and college. This time I had a sincere interest to understand Vietnam and the complexities of my late father.
One thing, however, stood out to me when I finished the book (forgive me for forgetting the title). I knew then that I would never be angry at the government for my father's death via Agent Orange, the chemical used to defoliate the jungles of Nam. I don't care that the government had ulterior motives and that it was a poor decision to go to war. (When is it ever?) My Daddy fought for his country just like any other soldier. He was a good man with more than just a Purple Heart to show for it in the end.
As a young man, Dad was the state champ in wrestling his senior year at Amphi, in Tucson, and went from 200 lbs. to a scarce 128 before his death, all at 6"1. In the almost 12 years that I knew my father, he never once spoke about Vietnam. Dad spent the last few years of his life trying to secure funds for the children he was about to leave behind and he did all of this amid a nasty divorce. Dad did not see his children much at all the year before his death. He lived alone in an apartment in Tucson, not far from the VA Hospital. I can't imagine dealing with cancer treatments and chemo alone. Finally, a month or two before he passed away from an internal hemorrhage, his mother came to take him into her care in Oklahoma. His last words were to tell his children that he loved them dearly.
I do not believe that my father was punished by the cancer that killed him. Everyone has to die, and this was simply his ticket out of this world. He was heroic as a father and most heroic in his last days on the earth. While the chemical Agent Orange would alter the lives of Americans and Vietnamase for decades to come though cancer and birth defects, it was also not their punishment. More so, this was not the first time this kind of thing happened nor would it be the last.
For many years, Americans still ate produce treated with this chemical and many others. Water sources still took in the cancer-causing agent. It took many years for our country to realize what was more than likely causing the various cancers all around. Today it is more "clear" than ever in the "not so clear" water we need to survive. It does not have high traces, but overtime, the cancer sets in (already dorment in our cells). If you doubt what I say, read your latest water analysis and the warnings about cancer from chemicals such as arsenic, chlorine, copper and lead, all found in tap water. There are also several studies showing parts of the country where cancer is unusually high.
This is why I rarely drink tap water. Bathing and brushing teeth is another matter. Since just about everyone is related to someone who's died via cancer, water is simply more of an obvious common denominator.The water reports are something I never trust either. Our government doesn't waste the majority of it's time hiding secrets like aliens in Area 51, but sometimes they water down the facts and evidence of longterm to current studies.
So what good has come from Vietnam? I think that the evidence of cancer causing chemicals is certainly one. Most farmers today, even those producing crops not used for consumption care about air quality and farming via safer means. But I do have a point about all these studies and government secrets. There is not some conspiracy behind closed doors. Our government did not taint the water nor do they wish to kill off the "little" people. They were and are, in fact, trying to make our lives safer, cleaner and better. While there are both good and bad leaders, we can't blame the government. What it all "boils down to" is that the leaders of our country are simply a reflection of who we are as a nation. Truth be known, some leaders are uglier than others, but I digress.
We still have the choice to plant our own gardens and create our own organic food. We can stop eating processed food, fast food, junk food and those amazing Crispy Creme donuts, for example. We can also take the higher road and support our brave Patriots defending our lands and/or vote for those whom we feel will make the world a better place. We still have billions of gallons of drinking water and enough food on our tables, for the most part. And these freedoms are still due to those noble Veterans of yesterday and today.
I truly admire our Veterans and the soldiers on the ground as we speak. I also look up to the families they leave behind.
Life was tough without my special Daddy as a young woman. I was not allowed to or able to attend his funeral and say a proper goodbye. So, I can only remember the times when he was heroic and be the young woman he dreamed I would be.
Years later, I was blessed to have a second father at the age of 15, Joseph Clay Parmley. With a broken heart and a domineering mother, it took me some time to accept him as a patriarch in my life (especially since he was her 4th spouse). This 2nd Dad is still alive and very much a source of strength to my family today. He taught me many things, one of which to be informed with current events and to vote. But while I am grateful for the influence of each of these heroic men, they were far from perfect in my childhood. They were just regular men trying to make a living the best way they knew how and trying to raise a brood of their own. On this bitter-sweet Memorial Day, I want to remember them and the thousands of other Veterans who fought for our America. I salute you, my Heroes...