A special Veteran’s Day tribute to my dad

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I checked on my dad and noticed he was crying. It is not often that my father is moved to tears.

He usually does not cry on veterans day.

My dad, your Opa, is one of the toughest people I know, and he has a big heart. He cries when family members pass away.

Opa teared up when I let him know about the divorce from your mother.

He almost cried when the Nationals won the world series. I confess that I was close to tears as well. What a great day.

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Opa in front of the WWII memorial in Washington DC.

Your Uncle Perry and I had the privilege of escorting Opa to the Vietnam Memorial in Washington DC.

Opa participated in a ceremony with his 1956 West Point classmates.

Each year those who are still here gather at the Vietnam wall to honor one of their classmates who perished during the war.

They read the names of the fallen, share the story of one in detail, and then walk down to where the name of that person is etched on the wall to place a wreath.

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My father in front of the Vietnam War memorial.

It is a simple ceremony — nothing fancy. No long speeches, no politicians, no fanfare. Just a small group of veterans honoring one of their own.

It was one of the most powerful Veteran’s Day events I have ever witnessed. I can understand why Opa cried during the ceremony.

I teared up more than once while there. Below are some pictures from that special day.

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Kicking off the informal ceremony for the USMA class of 1956.

I am glad that Opa was brave and decided to participate in the ceremony. He usually does not.

As you know Opa is a Vietnam veteran. He served three tours there. He lost a lot of friends in the war.

Visiting the wall is a draining event for him. It is an emotional one.

The wall reminds him of the war, battles fought, lives lost, and the complicated aftermath.

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My brother and Dad read names on the wall.

Opa was able to return to the states and live a healthy and productive life after the war.

Perry and I are the direct beneficiaries of Opa’s ability to put the war behind him and fulfill the American dream — to provide for your children so that they have an even better life than the one you lived.

I have the same dream for both of you and will do all that I can to make that happen. I want you to have a better life than mine.

The reason veterans fight is for a better tomorrow.

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Several of my dad’s classmates went on to be generals.

Opa is a generous person, and always willing to help others in need. I have experienced this first hand as his son and witnessed it as he interacts with others. I saw another example of it during this ceremony.

After we walked down to the wall Opa called over one of the family members who attended. He was the grown son of a fallen classmate.

He is probably my age. My dad let this family member know that he was good friends with his father many years ago. Opa shared a funny story that the man had never heard before.

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Veteran’s catching up and telling stories.

Opa proceeded to tell this son of his fallen classmate about his dad. What his father was like as a man. How he was a strong, smart, and brave soldier.

Opa thought the world of his classmate and was very sad when he learned about the untimely death of his good friend.

Opa was emotional — his eyes welled up with tears. Fond memories mixed with painful blasts from the past.

It was a difficult thing for Opa to do, but he did it anyway.

Opa gave this man a special gift that morning. The gift of knowing that his own father was a great man.

Afterward, the man thanked Opa for his service, and more importantly for letting him know about his dad.

Opa talking to son of fallen classmate
Opa talking to son of fallen classmate
Opa telling a story to the son of a fallen classmate — the gift of memories.

It is impossible to calculate the toll war takes on a nation, especially its veterans. So it is important that we honor those who have served.

The brave men and women who have sacrificed so much for our country. They deserve our respect and gratitude.

Opa is from a generation that fought an unpopular war, in an unknown part of the world, for reasons that are still somewhat of a mystery to this day.

It was tough, but he and his generation did their part.

From this day to the end of time, without our being remembered: we few, we happy few, we band of brothers — for whoever sheds his blood with me today shall be my brother. However humble his birth, this day shall grant him nobility.

Henry V by William Shakespeare

Nowadays our country remains entangled in a long war that has cost our nation dearly.

Today’s veterans face some of the same challenges that Opa and his classmates did many years ago.

One day many years from now they too will gather together and talk about the wars they fought.

As for you — do your part.

If you see any veterans — thank them for their service.

They deserve it, just like Opa.

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More stories about fellow veterans.

I write a blog for my sons called Doug Keating Letter to Sons. I am sharing content from my blog here. I hope you enjoyed it. All feedback is welcome. Thanks for reading it.

Leader and learner. Father of two young men. Novice blogger, www.lettertosons.com, Founder of All The Way Leadership! http://www.allthewayleadership.com/

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