As I think of today, the Fourth of July, I think of Daddy more than I do fireworks or BBQ or parades or speeches about our forefathers. Not that today was anything extraordinarily grand for him, just that he was intensely proud to be an American and to have served in the military.
Like so many in his generation, Daddy marched off to war when his country called. He spent a lot of time peering at radar screens in the Azores, a spit of land off the coast of Europe, directing aircraft as they shuttled between the U.S. and the war against Hitler. In all he spent 12 years in the Air Force and hauled his young family from Biloxi, MS to Arlington, VA, to Fairbanks, AK to Mobile, AL. Which is why I went to four schools in my first three grades.
He was tremendously proud of the uniform he wore and that the son of a Covington County sharecropper became an Air Force officer, even though he only finished high school. He left the military after a tour of duty at Brookley Field in Mobile, bought 80 acres near Irvington and turned me into a farm boy as a fifth grader.
I honestly don’t recall much about those long ago Fourth of July days. However, I’m sure they involved watermelon and homemade ice cream. And maybe even a visit to the swimming hole at Carl’s Creek a few miles down the Padgett-Switch road.
But I do know that Daddy understood the significance of this special holiday more than many. I’m sure it was a day that old memories came to him, of military friends, of long days and long nights and of fulfilling a duty to the country he loved.
As I write this, the flag that draped his casket on a cold, damp February Day in 2006 rests in a triangular case about 10 feet over my right shoulder. I see it every day.
So today I remember Daddy most of all. And all his comrades in arms who gave us the freedoms we have today.