Too often when my children were growing up, I wasn’t there for them as a father. Instead, I was on battlefields providing signals intelligence support to U.S. and friendly forces. It started in 1962 in Vietnam. For thirteen years, I spent more time in Vietnam than I did in the states. I earned my spurs and a reputation for effective combat support. After 1975, when Vietnam fell to the communists, I went on to other parts of the world. All that is still classified, so I can’t talk about it. Suffice it to say that I carried out similar duties.
The net result, for my four children, is that they were for long periods essentially fatherless. When I was home, I overdid being a good father, dressing them, feeding them, bathing them, and putting them to bed at night. But the overindulgence didn’t make up for my long absences.
My children grew into responsible, admirable adults. They are all successful, with children of their own. They have never criticized me. My sense is that they don’t hold me accountable.
I’m sometimes thanked for my service to my country. I often feel that the ones who should be thanked for their sacrifice are my children. They went without needed fathering so that I could support U.S. forces in battle. They survived the deprivation splendidly, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t suffer.
So, speaking for my country, I thank my children for their sacrifice. The world is a better place because of what they had to do without. My heart is with them.