“Duty, Honor, Country!” This phrase was uttered by the great Gen. Douglas MacArthur May 12, 1962, in his acceptance speech of the Sylvanus Thayer Award at the U.S. Military Academy. It has withstood the test of time and become the rallying cry for men and women in uniform and those who are, in one way or another, connected to the proud tradition of the United States Military. I am proud and happy to have had a father who dedicated his entire life to this honor and whose life and work were a demonstration of those recognized words.
With the holidays quickly approaching, many of you, if not all, have some family tradition or memory you hold very dear in your life. But, my favorite holiday has nothing to do with turkey and gravy, or cookies and a tree, but everything to do with fatherly love.
My father never spoke much about WWII, but he never failed to show his alliance to those who chose to commit to service every day of his 85 years of life, before passing in 2004. Memories of him struggling to stand out of his wheelchair to salute, or making sure the flag was brought down before dark instilled respect, honor, and patriotism in our family before anything else, and is why Veteran’s Day is and will always be my favorite holiday.
The mere hearing of the songs “Wind Beneath My Wings” or “American Soldier” has always evoked great emotion in me. It reminds me how proud I am to be an American and even more so of my father. Sacrifices reflected in pictures were brought out of the closet only on special occasions, and stories of “his boys” brought tears to his face. Countless WWII reunions that each year saw fewer and fewer attendees, became so very important, and the shrapnel embedded in his body that gave him discomfort, was never complained about.
Dad himself was a proud veteran who participated in numerous missions and European battles. He never failed to remind himself how grateful and proud he was as an American and to have participated in landing operations in Operation Neptune. He served his country with pride and honor and would always look back and recall those years as a happy and humbling experience. He was wounded in combat and sent home to recover at Edward Hines Jr. Memorial Hospital, managed by the Veterans Administration, just outside of Chicago, Illinois. Upon discharge, he went back to Chicago as a highly decorated Army sergeant and started a new chapter in his life.
By 1950, my father moved to Plainfield, Illinois, where over the course of five decades he purchased and operated seven Standard Oil service stations along the legendary Route 66.