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For Father's Day, remembering a hero in my own home

POSTED: June 19, 2011 12:04 a.m.

I realized the other day I have now reached the point that I have lived more years without a father than I did with him.

I think about him a lot these days. He would have been proud of my accomplishments, and I would love to share them with him.

My dad was 42 when I was born. My first elementary school served the children of soldiers at Fort McPherson in Atlanta. Most of those men were in their late 20s or early 30s and were off in places like Saigon, DaNang or Phnom Penh.

At the time, the young dads would send their sons an ornately embroidered jacket that was made by hand. I really wanted one.

My mother told me they were sent back from the war. The war, of course, was the Vietnam War, which came into our living rooms every night on the network news.

"Why isn't Dad in the war?" I asked, only to be informed that my dad served in another war, World War II.

All he got was a medal that was in his sock drawer. It was purple and had a likeness of George Washington on it. You couldn't wear that to school.

"I wish Dad had been in a better war, where they had jackets," I told Mama. It made her so angry she sent me to my room.

My dad was shot on two occasions during his war. Once was in Belgium, the other was in Germany. The second one nearly killed him, and he suffered physically for the rest of his life. I understood early on that Dad was sick, but it was years later before I understood the circumstances that made him that way.

At 12, I was already bitten by the political bug and received an invitation to a dinner honoring our new U.S. senator, Sam Nunn. They only sent one ticket and my sweet Daddy waited for hours outside an Atlanta hotel while I went inside.

I had to make a speech in that same hotel the other day. I would have made certain he had a seat on the front row.

When I was 14, my Dad drove me to take my test for a license to operate a broadcast radio station. He didn't understand the business, but he never discouraged me. For the first year and a half I was in the radio business, he would get up early on Sunday mornings and drive me to the station before sunup.

I was cleared by the Secret Service to cover the inaugural of President Jimmy Carter at the age of 16.
The two of us worked under a pecan tree on some cold December nights to rebuild the engine in the car my brother and I would drive to Washington for the event.

He was a quiet man and I can't quote you many profound sayings he offered. But, he loved his wife and two boys with a love that was demonstrated by his numerous unselfish actions.

I loved him dearly, but my love for him has grown over the past 27 years he has been gone.

As for wars, he served in one heck of war. I may not have gotten an embroidered jacket, but I realize now that a real hero lived in my house. He gave me my name and an upbringing in a good family.

I'll take that over a jacket any day.

Harris Blackwood is a Gainesville resident whose columns appear on the Sunday Life page and on gainesvilletimes.com.



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