Why my dad is the greatest in the world — part 1

Today is Father’s Day in America. We take this special day to celebrate all the dads out there. One of the greatest joys of my life is fathering both of you. You are growing into fine young men.

But, this post is not about me.

No — it is about my dad.

We call him Opa. He truly is the man, the myth, the legend. What I want to do in this post is to explain why my dad is the greatest in the world.

It is a special tribute to him this Father’s Day.

The D in Dad stands for determined

Life has never been easy for my Dad. He comes from a poor family. His father died young. His step-father was an alcoholic. The kind who drinks his paycheck and returns home to take out his anger on his family.

My dad decided as a young man that if he wanted to get more out of life that he would have to create it himself. He was determined to find a better life.

Like many young men who come from poor families, the military was his best option. He enlisted in the Army at age 17.

Opa is smart. He tested really well so the Army decided West Point might be the best path for him.

My Dad performed well at West Point, graduating in 1956 as an Infantry Officer with orders to the 82nd Airborne Division in Fort Bragg North Carolina.

My Dad had an amazing military career

My Dad achieved amazing feats during his military career. He was the best of the best — Airborne, Ranger, Special Forces.

He has too many awards to list but includes the Combat Infantryman’s, Expert Infantryman’s, and Master Parachutist Badges. He served three combat tours in Vietnam. Thank God he was never wounded in combat.

When I was a young man I did not respect my dad nearly enough. I did not realize, much less understand, the magnitude of his military achievements.

I gained much more respect for him after I followed in his footsteps by joining the Army. I also learned a lot about what my dad was like while in uniform through the stories that others told me about him.

Learning about my dad from others

One day I was at green ramp getting ready for an airborne operation. It is where you put on your parachutes and board the planes.

I was a lieutenant at the time. The Commander of the 82nd Airborne Division, Major General Mike Steele, arrived to get ready for the jump. As usual, we were delayed. MG Steele struck up a conversation with me as we waited.

He had served in Vietnam as a Ranger advisor with my dad. MG Steele asked how my dad was doing. I gave a really short response.

I had met the Division Commander before but was nervous to talk with him. After all, it is not common for a lieutenant to talk with a two-star general.

He noticed my unease and asked if I wanted to hear a story about my dad. Sure — a great way to pass the time. Little did I know that he would reveal a whole different side to my dad that I never knew.

My Dad is a determined warrior

MG Steele told me a story about a battle from many years ago on a remote hilltop in Vietnam. The unit he and my dad supported was in a hell of a fight taking heavy fire. Outmanned and outgunned, the situation looked grim.

As the enemies attacks increased in intensity MG Steele became convinced they would not survive the battle. I would learn many years later from my dad that he thought they all were going to die that day as well.

During the fight, they were surrounded, overrun by the enemy, and eventually had to call in artillery on their own position. Despite all the attempts by the enemy to destroy their unit they somehow survived.

MG Steele finished the story by letting me know the main reason he was alive was my dad’s leadership. His determination, warrior spirit, and calmness under fire were amazing. My dad continued to fight when all seemed lost.

He held his unit together despite overwhelming odds. That day I learned an important lesson — my dad is a determined warrior, not just some goofy guy that raised me.

Energetically will I meet the enemies of my country. I shall defeat them on the field of battle for I am better trained and will fight with all my might. Surrender is not a Ranger word. I will never leave a fallen comrade to fall into the hands of the enemy and under no circumstances will I ever embarrass my country.

Fifth Stanza of the Ranger Creed

The reason I am telling you this story now

I had never heard this story before. It took me by surprise and made me completely rethink my attitude towards my dad.

I wondered what would have happened if my dad decided that day to give up, to stop fighting, and to surrender to the enemy. What if my dad, MG Steele, and their comrades died that day? It is scary to think about.

You see this battle took place after I was born, not before. While my dad fought this battle he had a wife and two young boys at home who had no clue what he was facing that day.

If he perished in that battle my mom would have become a war widow.

Uncle Perry and I would have grown up without a dad.

My life would have been different. Your lives would have been much different. The impact would ripple through the generations.

We witness these impacts nowadays. When one of our soldiers dies in combat an entire family is affected.

Thank God my dad did not die that day. It would have devastated my family. My heart goes out to all families who have lost a loved one in combat.

Dad survived because he never stopped fighting

Some days I wonder what was it that enabled my dad to keep fighting that day. Why didn’t he give up and surrender? Was it his ranger training? Was it his love for his fellow soldiers? Was it the thought of his family at home?

Or was it that he simply determined he was not going to die that day?

I believe it is all the above.

This story helps explain why my dad is the greatest in the world. There are more stories to tell, so I will save them for the next post. Happy Father’s Day!

Related

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

Originally published at www.lettertosons.com on June 17, 2018.

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Doug Keating

Doug Keating

Leader and learner. husband and father. Novice blogger, www.lettertosons.com, Founder of All The Way Leadership! http://www.allthewayleadership.com/