Remembering My Dad on Father's Day

I was never conscious of a Father's Day with my father.

He died when I was four, in 1965. A few months before his death, he served in Vietnam. That’s where he became sick and was flown to San Antonio for treatment at Wilford Hall Hospital.

His passing was my early introduction to death, loss and grief.

I only have fleeting memories of him, but they are powerful.

I have had moments over the years where I have felt his presence.

I have even felt the pen move across the page and known they were his words and not mine.

I wish I had known him more. But I am honored to be his son.

Today, 57 years after his death, I am a caregiver for his 98-year-old bride, our Mom, along with my sister Beth and her daughter, Haley.

I think he would have been comforted to know in 1965 that his nine-year-old daughter Beth and four-year-old son Chris would be around to look after his wife Katherine in the distant 21st Century.

Long before his service in Vietnam, he was a B-17 pilot in World War II. He later flew B-47’s near the start of the Cold War.

He was a devoted husband and father.

My older brother followed in his footsteps and became an Air Force pilot. For years my brother would visit our father's gravesite at Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery.

My brother died heroically, sparing innocent lives in a fighter jet crash near Ellington Field outside Houston in 1980.

Now they are buried 50 yards apart. Heroic men sharing hallowed soil.

When I visit their gravesites, decades after their flights to the next world, I always gaze skyward to the clouds where they both flew. Searching for any sign of them, as I have for most of my life, I never see them in the sky.

But sometimes I feel them nearby. Especially at the cemetery, where the silence of a sea of souls beckons my attention.

And I am taken back, to when my father served in Vietnam. And he carried photos of all his children in his wallet. He left us these photos just before he died.

Inscribed on the back of my photo...

"Kip (that's what he called me), You & your sisters and your brother have been on the other side of the world - I love you son, Dad"

I love you too, Dad. Wherever on the other side of the world you might be.

I miss you.

Happy Father’s Day.

My father in World War II, when he flew B-17'sPhoto: Chris Duel

The front and back of the photo of me that my father carried in his wallet in Vietnam in 1964. Photo: Chris Duel

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