This past Saturday was 50+ years in the making...
My dad, Jean Keck, was one of 88 veterans recently chosen to fly to Washington, DC to receive a day of accolades and honor, compliments of Honor Flight of Dayton, Ohio.
Dad was in the Army serving his country during the Korean War years and returned home to a delayed civilian life without fanfare or celebration. He never expected any thanks. He did his job - going where he was sent, doing what he was told.
Without giving away all Honor Flight's wonderful surprises I can tell you Dad got the fanfare he richly deserved this past weekend!
Thanks to the inside information and encouragement shared by my dear step-sister Debbie (Bryant) back in Ohio and the good people at Honor Flight (Jan and Larry) I was able to join my dad part way into the trip, as a surprise for what would become a memory making day for both of us.
As the buses arrived I scurried into place, hoping to hide myself for as long as I could stand, documenting at least this part of the day, honoring my dad through my photography. But I neglected to factor how much of a weepy, blubbering mess I would be. I made myself known and my own dear father, my hero, on his own special day, pulled us aside to sit and hold hands. In that moment he chose to forget about his own incredible wonders that awaited him as he offered special encouragement and comfort to a daughter who felt she might be an intruder. We lingered so long holding hands and catching up that we became the rear guard of sorts. I'm so thankful for the support staff who gently nudged us onto the adventures of the day!
Part of the Honor Flight experience is taking these men of valor on a whirlwind tour to see the monuments erected in their own honor.
What was unexpected was the many men, women and children who stopped to thank my dad for his service. Dad was often asked to be photographed with young students as well as parents. My heart was deeply touched and my world stood still as our nation wrapped the arms of their gratitude around Dad's own heart.
But this was only a small repeat of the reception Dad and his compatriots had already received in both Dayton and Ronald Reagan Airport. Even while I was sleeping at home then arising to drive, metro and walk my way into town from the more rural burbs of Virginia, Dad was being cheered for and thanked. Hundreds turned out to shake his hand and women kissed him and the others vets, making what would be the most powerful impact on him of the day.
For me, it was an awakening, as if even I myself was only now beginning to realize that thanks are long overdue to all our veterans - ones who fight in far off lands and ones who work in homeland offices, ones who stand where they're told to stand and ones who leave their beloved families and our revered soil behind. ::Thank you::
All soldiers put what we might call "normal life" on hold as they work to serve us and our great nation. For some, military life becomes the new norm. For others it is a season of sacrifice.
Whatever the reason for joining and for however long and wherever they served, the logo printed on the back of their tee shirt says it all:
If you can read this, thank a Teacher.
If you can read this in English,
thank a Veteran!
Dad was well thanked on Saturday. I pray he'll continue to receive the appreciation for what he humbly considers his normal duty. I know he felt the honor that was (in my opinion) rightfully his and all his companions. And whether Dad ever feels like a hero or not, he was mine that whole day and even more so today.
See, it's not just because of what he'd done (without glory) so many years ago, it's who he is and what he does today...
from making peace in our family by sharing tender love and compassion, helping to reconcile estranged sisters to honoring his wife of 50 years - Rosemarie Keck - as they celebrated their golden wedding anniversary merely one day prior to this trip.
Dad - YOU are my HERO. I'm so glad God chose you as my father. I'm so proud of the man you were and I'm proud to tell everyone who you are now.
As I hear your own sweet words
I echo back to you...
"I love you more!"