A friend recently posted a definition of a hero, “…A hero isn’t the man who “believes in himself” and thereby conquers — a hero is a man who forgets himself in the service of others.” I am not sure I could find better words to describe my father. Born at the beginning of the Great Depression, his life was always one of struggle and hard work. My father was the epitome of dedication and loyalty to his family, and ever faithful to his country. A descendant of the earliest settlers of Pennsylvania, his forebears began a family military tradition in the Continental Army, serving with George Washington at Valley Forge.
Dad had the rare distinction of serving in two of our armed forces, the Army and Air Force. He retired from the Air Force in 1973. A Cold War warrior, he was keenly aware of the true cost of our freedoms. My father was a great fan of western and war movies, and always thought highly of such actors as John Wayne, Robert Mitchem, and Jimmy Stewart. Although he would have been the last to say this, the truth is he was the very embodiment of the courage, devotion, and patriotism that they portrayed. His influence was deep, his sons serving as officers in the Navy and Marine Corps, and his grandsons serving in the Army, Navy, and Marine Corps.
Alexis de Tocqueville once observed that what makes America great is that America is good. Perhaps I am biased in saying so, but I believe what makes America great is that it has been made by such men as my father. It is of course a great honor to be buried in our National Cemetery, but, forgive me for saying, my father’s grave in Arlington makes it even more of a hollowed place.