It was pretty and sunny on that fateful day in 1969. My siblings and I were busy playing when the dark colored sedan stopped in front of our house. It seemed as though everything stopped as we watched the men in uniform get out of the car and walk slowly to the door. Mom quickly told us kids to go in the backyard and play. I knew something wasn’t right as we walked out the back door not knowing that the words these men would share would forever change our lives. Joan was 12, Marie 9, James was 5 and I was to be 11 the next day.
His was the only life lost that 7th day of August. There was a fire at the ammunitions dump. He was a brave man. He drove the fire truck. Other men were there with him and were wounded. He was 35.
Mom opened the back door. I don’t know if the men had gone yet or not. She just said two short words … ‘Daddy’s gone’. I didn’t clearly understand … I was terribly shy, so I didn’t ask. I saw tears and so I covered my face as though I were crying too. We all four walked in the house. It was busy after that. We didn’t have a phone, so Joan went across the street to call Grandma and Grandpa. The news began to sink in … it wasn’t just that he was gone … he wasn’t ever coming back. He was dead … the rest of the day is a blur … but my life, my siblings, and my Mom’s lives were forever changed.
We’d been without Daddy for awhile now since he had joined the Sea Bees about six months earlier. It was over the next months and years that the reality of life without him set in.
We thought we saw him many times in those early days … in a car we had once owned, going around a corner, other times and places … I suppose that was because we weren’t able to see him after he had died. They brought his body back from Vietnam, but because of the explosion, it was a closed casket funeral.
I was an adult before I really came to terms with his life and his death. He was a good and kind man … not perfect by any means, but he was my Dad and I loved him.
One day I’ll have more stories to tell … I hope you’re here to read them.