Little kid that I was, I didn’t understand when dad showed me his medals, the one and only time, and only very briefly, but very nostalgically. Not understanding what he was showing me, I forgot, idiot little kid that I was. But his demeanor went into my heart and soul deeper than I suspected. Only now, a half-century later, does the memory flood back, since Rep. Mark Meadows (R., NC) had the Navy Personnel Command in Millington, Tennessee send out the list of medals received. The Purple Heart was awarded in the newly restricted years for the combat wounded only. I dare say I have a bit more understanding now than when I was a little kid.
From what I can gather of all my memories of dad, his aspirations for service to God and country, thinking about becoming a priest in the early years, then a politician in later years (as back in the day as a combat fighter attack USMC Corsair pilot he saw how much politics affected geo-political everything), then settling on following up on his JAG training at Georgetown to be an attorney because, he said instantaneously when I asked, this was his way to be of service to help people who were in trouble… from what I can gather, the last thing a purple heart like this was about for him was self-aggrandizement. He knew too many of his buddies who had given all, laying down their lives for God and Country.
He spoke only extremely rarely about war stuff, as is the case with so many veterans. I am surely speaking out of turn, but I dare say that the reason for this is the immediacy of being in life and death situations in service of that which is much greater than one’s own life, namely, the individual and common good of peoples, the service of God, Author of life, and the service of country, the national family to which one belongs.
One is drawn by this love before the epic magnificence of it all, to be in reverence before God and country, and when one is in a state of reverence, it is not that one is reduced to silence but rather lifted up into an appreciation of that for which words fail to express anything comprehensible to anyone so naive as myself as a little kid. It’s this reverence before God and country with the immediacy of life and death that makes for a brotherhood, but not an inward looking, self-congratulatory, closed society of brothers, but rather a brotherhood which encourages all to know that honor and patriotism is not about heroes, but rather about all of us striving to have the same reverence before God and Country, the same immediacy of service in the midst of life and death for God and Country.
Thanks, dad, for understanding honor and patriotism from the inside out, so that I, so that we all could be encouraged to live the same service of God and Country whatever life and death brings to us.
2 responses to “Dad’s Combat Wounded Purple Heart: understanding honor and patriotism”
And what is extraordinary about your father’s moment was that his love was for a country that resisted the temptations of imperialism. Not everyone had a set of ideals worth fighting for.
God bless all those who serve their country abroad and at home.