Happy Father's Day!
I've been a pretty rotten son for a number of years now. It takes a lot of work to get me to write snail mail. Christmas cards, birthdays....all missed opportunities, by me, to show my love on those special days when they are most expected and needed.
My parents have been living in Japan ever since I left home to go to college. It doesn't seem that long ago, and yet over 15 years have passed since. Within that space of time, you could say that I've grown further apart from my parents. Not because of anything bad passing between us; but because of the absence, due to us being on the other side of the planet from one another. I've grown and matured in some ways that make me a stranger to them; they, in turn, have lost some hair, gained a few wrinkles, and are beginning to look and act like "old folk".
Eventually, they will return to the States and retire somewhere. In the meantime, I was hoping that the magic of e-mail would keep us in better touch; but it hasn't. Dad only has access to e-mail from work, and he seems to be as bad at using it as I am at using snail mail. Then there's the problem of my mail being bounced back to me. For some reason, his service provider seems to reject my e-mails.
I never call them, because I've cut the landline for the past 6 years, and international calls are still expensive by way of cellular phones.
So my hope is that starting a blog might be one way in which I can share a part of myself with my parents and let them peer into the "grown up" mind of the son they raised. I'm naturally taciturn and reserved; so communicating in this manner will also allow them access to my inner self, which I tend to keep hidden.
9/11 affected me deeply, as it has affected many of us, in profound ways. For me, it invoked and defined my political identity. If I was politically conservative all along, I never knew it until after the events of 9/11. Growing up, my dad never talked politics with me. I had plenty of freedom (maybe in part, due, to the fact that I was a kid that never got into any trouble) and was given lots of rope that I could have easily hung myself with; but I never did. Mostly what I had was a stable home and plenty of love.
Dad never tried to force me into any particular set of beliefs. My Dad's atheist (although he grew up Catholic) and my mom's Buddhist. She used to try to bring me to her NSA meetings, which I found to be boring, and my Dad would gently tell her to leave me alone. Eventually, I think my mom drifted away from chanting and praying; I seem to remember her going in phases, though.
Although we weren't a Christian family, we always celebrated Christmas with cards, presents, a tree, and all the trimmings and trappings of the commercial aspects of Christmas, which made it so beautiful and accessible to even the non-Christian families to enjoy and celebrate. It's really my favorite time of the year. Whether you believe in Jesus or not, the underlying theme of peace and love and good cheer to all, was really felt around this magical holiday. I was exposed to a lot of Christian religious imagery and themes, and because of it, I don't feel threatened by Christianity, the way intolerant groups like the ACLU want to dismantle and uproot our Judeo-Christian heritage and traditions. They are eradicating the very fabric and fiber of who we are as a nation in the name of diversity and multiculturalism, and separation of Church and State. It is religious bigotry and what they are taking away is a part of the best of who we are as a country; this nation and its moral values are rooted in Christianity.
I always knew my dad voted Republican; but I never fully understood what that meant. Democrats...Republicans.....empty labels. Although I was young, I remember going to school, and being among many military families, my peers were all gung-ho for President Ford; so feeling sorry for Jimmy Carter, I secretly and meekly was pulling for Carter to win. *sigh* Kind of reminds me of this article, and how the young students' reason for voting the way they did is because they are merely parroting what they've been told: that Jefferson owned slaves. And that's it. No other context for critical thinking and analysis. Our Founding Father deserves better.
My Dad has probably long since forgotten this, but I remember when I was very young...perhaps not that young, but around 6 years of age (just guessing)....I came to his room and he was in bed reading and I stood in the doorway and asked him if he dropped bombs on people (during Vietnam). If I remember it correctly, the question caught him off-guard and I don't remember him giving me a ready-made, good response. How do you rationalize the "good" in dropping bombs on people you've never met, to a 6 year old? Kids are taught that it's not nice to hurt people, that we should hold hands and sing "It's a Small World After All" (actually, that Coca-Cola comercial comes to mind about "I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing") that violence is wrong; we never really teach our young about the sophistications of "moral violence". I think my words to my Dad that night, a child's verbal lashing, made him almost tear up. I remember his voice was soft as he tried his best, unsuccessfully, to rationalize his actions and duty in that War, to a little kid wiping snot from his nose.
Now I understand. Now I am deeply proud of his military service. It's been a bit odd, growing up a military brat, in that I've never known any better. Moving every 2-4 years was normal. It wasn't until high school, when I began to attach more meaningfulness to friendships (especially with the opposite sex) that I resented that aspect of military life.
I look back upon my experiences around military bases and around military men and families with new eyes; with post-9/11 colored lenses. And I've discovered a very deep love and appreciation of our military men and women. A teacher of mine, Mark Mikita, (who is also like a father figure to me, insofar as teachers are like fathers), has a deeply profound love and respect for those who serve this country in the role of soldier and warrior; before 9/11, I was already gaining new perspective and insights into what it means to honor our military, thanks to him.
If you've read this far, I am grateful for your time in doing so, and will spare you from further musings. It's just past midnight now, on Father's Day, and the sand begins to weigh in on my eyes; I will close this by posting the following e-mail response I received from my Dad, on Sunday, March 16, 2003 8:05 PM. I had asked a week earlier for a briefing on his military career, as I really was quite ignorant of the depth of his accomplishments. I was always proud of him in a vague sort of way, as sons are apt to admire their fathers, unconditionally; but this gave me a much more grounded, detailed sense of pride in a man I only knew as my father; not as soldier and patriot.....
How have you been? Mom and I are ok. Today is the first day of our two-week break between terms. I just turned in my grades. It is raining,and I canceled my plans to play golf. Mom went to visit Aki, and to play pachinko.
My military history is quite long. I will give you a year-by-year synopsis.
Apr 1960 -- Basic training at Lackland AFB, TX, in San Antonio
Jul 1960-Jul 1961 -- Chinese language study at Yale University, New HavenCN.
Jul 1961-Jan 1962 -- Technical training at Goodfellow AFB, TX, in SanAngelo
Feb 1962 -- Survival training at Stead AFB, NV near Reno
Mar 1962-Feb 1963 -- Stationed at Kadena AB, Okinawa. Flew as an Intelligence crew member in the back end of a C-130. Promoted to E-4.
Feb 1963 -- My squadron moved to Yokota AB, Japan. Met Mom in March.
Mar 1964 -- Married Mom then we transfered to Castle AFB, CA, near Merced. At Castle I was a clerk working for the Operations Officer in an F-106 squadron. It was there that I really decided to become a pilot. Promoted to E-5
Apr 1965 -- Transfered to Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ to study Astronautical Engineering. Graduated Summa Cum Laude in May 1967. GPA was 3.89.
Jun-Aug 1967 -- Officer Training School. Distinguised graduate. 15th in aclass of about 800. Promoted to 2nd Lt.
Oct 1967-Oct 1968 Pilot training at Williams AFB, AZ. We lived in Mesa. I flew T-37s and T-38s. More importantly, you came into our lives.
Dec 1968 -- Water survival training at Homestead AFB FL, near Miami
Jan-Jul 1969 -- F-105 Thunderchief training at McConnell AFB, Kansas. Promoted to 1st Lt.
Aug 1969 -- Jungle survival training at Clark AB, Phillipines.
Aug 1969-Aug 1970 -- Vietnam War, Stationed at Takhli AB Thailand. Flew 132 missions in the F-105.
Aug 1970-Dec 1970 -- Stationed at Kadena AB, Okinawa flying F-105s. Promoted to Captain. The squadron had too many pilots, so I was transfered to Myrtle Beach.
Jan-Mar 1971 -- A-7D training at Luke AFB, AZ, west of Phoenix.
Apr 1971 - Jun 1975 -- Flew A-7D Corsairs at Myrtle Beach SC. In Sep 1972 deployed to Korat AB, Thailand, for another go in the war. Flew 80 missions in the A-7D. During the two tours in the war I received two Distinguished Flying Crosses, and numerous Air Medals, plus several other lesser decorations.
Jun 1975-Dec 1976 -- Studied for a Masters Degree in Astronautical Engineering at the Air Force Institute of Technology at Wright-Patterson AFB, OH. Distinguished Graduate.
Jan 1977-May 1981 -- Taught Engineering Mechanics at the Air Force Academy. Promoted to Major. While at the Academy went TDY to Luke AFB to train inthe F-15. The course was too short, and I didn't have enough experience in Air Combat, so I failed. All my experience was in air-to-ground combat.
Jun 1981 -- Went to Patrick AFB FL for training in the OV-10. It is a forward air control aircraft.
Aug 1981-Aug 1982 -- Osan Air Base Korea flying OV-10s as the squadron operations officer.
Aug 1982-Sep 1984 -- University of Texas. Studying for a PhD. Didn't finish the program. Promoted to Lt. Col.
Sep 1984-Sep 1987 -- Norton AFB, CA, Worked as an engineer on thePeacekeeper Ballistic Missile system. In charge of the Nuclear Certification process. Was the safest system ever fielded.
Sep 1987-Sep 1989 -- We deserted you at UCLA and went to Osan again. This time I was in charge of all Air Force military exercises in Korea.
Sep 1989-Aug 1991 -- Yokota again to be the air liaison officer to the Army. It was a nothing job.
Aug 1 1991. Retired after 31 years 4 months. Most of the time it was goodto me. I didn't like the job at Norton or my last one at Yokota.
I hope this is what you were looking for. Bye for Now, Love for Always,
I'm not sure of the year, but this is my Dad; and I believe that is an F-5 Freedom Fighter that he stands beside.