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Too Late?
Photo:Arjen Lutgendorff
It happens every Memorial Day, Fourth of July and Veterans Day. We stop to honor the people who have served so bravely in our armed services. There’s usually not a dry eye in the place as we applaud their service. But my tears go deeper. I remember my father and how proud he was of his World War II service and I’m ashamed when I remember how little I listened to his war stories.

It seemed that Dad always struggled for attention. His father was killed in a foundry accident before he was born and so his mother had to work hard to support him and his older sister. She soon remarried. They had a son, Dale, who was the opposite of dad—big and burly, although not very intelligent. Fortunately Dad had that going for him, but sometimes it wasn’t enough when he was judged against his strapping younger brother. It didn’t help that his mother kept comparing the boys. I’m sure Dale didn’t appreciate being told he should be smarter like his brother Lowell, either.

My father excelled in school, married a beautiful blond Southern gal and settled in northern Virginia. A son was born and soon after Dad received a letter from the draft board. He reported for his physical, sure he would fail. Not only did he weigh just 120 pounds, but he had flat feet. They must have looked the other way, because Dad passed and soon reported for duty as a non-combatant medic.

Didn't Listen

We don’t know a lot about the two years he spent in Europe, but know that he often had difficulty getting passes to attend church services and was harassed for not carrying a weapon. He used to talk about a buzz bomb that hit the medic tent, but we kids rarely stayed around to hear the rest of the story. I remember the day he received a package from a retired army nurse that contained a small bit of shrapnel and a note thanking my father for saving her life. She had carried that bit of bomb with her since the early ‘40s and never forgot his heroics.

My dad was a hero. I wish I could say we celebrated him that day, but we didn’t. Although I loved my father, his insecurities made him so needy for praise that we all got tired of giving him what he needed most. I’m not proud of that and wish I could undo my time with him, but I can’t. Dad died in 2000 from complications of Hepatitis C.

Don’t believe it when people say, “It’s never too late.” Sometimes it is.

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By Dee Litten Reed. Copyright © 2007 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines.

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