As many of you know, my dad served in World War II as a member of the 15th Army Air Force, 483rd Heavy Bomb Group stationed in Italy in the summer of 1944, immediately after the D-Day invasion. He flew as a part of a B-17 "Flying Fortress" crew. I thank so many of you for your kind remarks after he presented his World War II experiences to a Political Chips group this past May. He really enjoyed meeting many of you and appreciated your interest in his service.
Like most veterans of that conflict, he never thought that he had accomplished anything extraordinary when he returned from the War. It was just a job that had to be done. After his return to the States, the Air Force promised him an officer's commission should he "re-up" for another tour of duty -- most likely in the Pacific Theater. And, like most veterans of that war, he turned down the opportunity. He had seen enough. He just wanted to be home.
After his war experience, he followed a path taken by nearly every other young man in his hometown of Gary, Indiana: he went to work at U.S. Steel. He also started taking college classes through Indiana University, Northwest campus. Both steel mill and school were short-lived, however, as he accepted a more desirable job with Illinois Bell Telephone. Starting as a telephone installer in rural Indiana, he spent over 40 years with the company, achieving management status and eventually retiring as the manager of the Indiana Bell office in Crown Point, my hometown.
He married my mother -- his first and only wife -- 63 years ago, raised three of us kids, and managed to vacation with us through nearly every state in the contiguous U.S., with the benefit of cheap gasoline, a series of station wagons, and two travel trailers. He made sure that his family went to church every Sunday and that his kids attended parochial school. He and my mother worked to establish and maintain a successful small rental property business.
The challenge of cancer entered Dad's life 23 years ago, as he successfully fought a particularly virulent strain, one that led one of his amazed surgeons to declare, "You must have had Someone upstairs looking out for you." Now, at age 86, he finds himself a caregiver once again, as my mother's health is in decline. But he carries on, like the good soldier he once was, and to the best of his ability. It's the way he has always approached life: with duty, honor, and responsibility.