|SFC William T. John|
My Daddy was career Army so our family had moved every three years since I was born. One unusual occurrence happened over and over to our family and one other family. We met this family in Okinawa, Japan. The Beery’s then received orders to go to Schwäbisch Hall, Germany. The next year, we got orders for the same place. When we left Germany with orders for Fort Gordon, Georgia, we left Bob and Angie and their kids behind. Daddy remained assigned to Fort Gordon over the next ten years, only away for one-year assignments every couple of years. In September, 1970, Daddy went to Vietnam.
Larry returned from Vietnam in March, 1970, with orders for Fort Lewis, Washington. I happily discovered Bob and Angie were stationed at Fort Lewis. It was so nice to know we had friends waiting when we arrived at our destination – 3,000 miles away from home.
On December 17, 1970, Angie called to tell me that something had happened to Daddy and I needed to call home. Momma had called her so I wouldn’t have to learn the bad news over the phone, but Angie couldn’t bring herself to be the messenger of such devastating news.
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I called home and asked, “What’s happened to Daddy? Is he alright?” Momma’s reply was, “Cathy, your Daddy’s dead. Didn’t Angie tell you?” I can still hear her saying those words every time I think about that day.
The rest of the day was spent on the phone with the airlines. It was so near Christmas all the flights were at near capacity. Once the agent knew our situation, she bent over backwards to try to get us home. We finally settled on a route from Seattle to San Francisco to Atlanta to Augusta, every leg leading us closer to home.
On flight day we landed in San Francisco a little late and missed our connecting flight to Atlanta. Again, the airline showed compassion and drove us to a hotel for the night and picked us up the next morning in time for the new flight they had booked us on, all at their expense. We finally made it to Atlanta. The departure gate we needed was on the other side of the airport and we had limited time to get there. We must have looked like cartoon characters as a pregnant woman carrying her blue Samsonite train case was pulled along by a man trying to get both of them to the gate on time. By the grace of God we made it and landed at Bush Field in Augusta after traveling for two days and hop scotching our way across the United States.
Daddy’s body arrived at Bush Field a week after his death. Larry met the flight and escorted Daddy to the funeral home. He viewed Daddy first and gave the okay for the rest of the family to see him. The Army had done a great job of preparing Daddy’s body, dressing him in full dress uniform with all of his medals pinned to his uniform.
As we celebrate Independence Day this week, I am painfully aware that freedom isn’t free. My Daddy bought my freedom to live in a country where I can speak, write, and worship as I please.
Is there someone you know who made the ultimate sacrifice for your freedom? Leave a comment about them here and add something to your celebration this year in remembrance of them.
Living joyfully in a free country-