Thursday, November 11, 2010

"Once Upon a Time We Had a Daddy"- The Story of a Veteran

This essay was written by my daughter, last college semester, for her English class.

Once Upon a Time... We Had a Daddy

by Angel of God 87 (©2010 by Ambar Rivera)

PTSD or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is a term that has increasingly become the moniker everyone uses to describe the mental breakdown people experience when all is stripped away. Problem with mental disorders is, you never know when and how they'll strike. No one is immune to PTSD or any mental disorder; just so happens that military men and women are more susceptible to it. The mind is man's first and last defense and once that is gone…

After I wrote this first paragraph, I was staring at my computer screen mumbling to myself. My mom, seeing me stressed asked me what was the matter. I explained what I was trying to write about, how I had to write an essay about PTSD and that I was getting nowhere really fast.  Mom got this faraway look in her eyes, which prompted me to ask her what was wrong. Instead of answering, she proceeded to tell me a story, just like when I was little.

"Once upon a time, there was a loving husband and soldier who had four daughters and one son. They called him Daddy. He was well liked by all the kids in the community; he was the only father who would race the whole lot of them. There would be kids on bikes and skates, tall kids on foot all wanting to beat Jose's father, but, he always won the race.  His kids all loved him dearly and loved to eat anything he cooked especially his cheese soufflĂ©, according to the youngest.

One day, Daddy was called to serve in the Vietnam War. His wife and children missed him very much and would love sending him letters and pictures and eagerly awaited his replies. They would daily march to the mailbox and see if a letter had arrived. Little did they know the difficulties, the hardships this man faced.  The war eventually ended and the President called his Soldiers home. But not all was as it should have been. When this Soldier came home this family received him at the airport, he had retired from the ARMY. There was a change in him, but it wasn't an immediate transformation, though he certainly looked like Daddy. But it seemed as if a stranger had taken his place, and the family quickly found that their father was forever altered. Little by little the changes came and the happy family began to feel them. Daddy became "Dad" and nothing anyone did was good enough or made him happy.

"The eldest daughter became rebellious and ran away, the second became extremely reserved and anti-social and to this day, barely speaks to the rest of her family. The son was forced to grow up too fast because "Dad" demanded a perfect son even though he himself was faulty. Meanwhile, the two youngest daughters wondered where their daddy had gone. Their older sister always explained, "Daddy went to the War and a monster came back", and that was the way it was. Many years passed and tragedy struck, they called it Leukemia and no one could do anything about it. Before he died though, daddy made his peace with God. The youngest daughter tried to go see her dad at the V.A. hospital but she didn't make it in time. "I've lost my daddy twice", she sadly said, "I lost him to the Vietnam War and I lost him to Leukemia."

More than twenty years have passed since my grandfather died, and I cherish the stories of when "dad" used to be "Daddy," I keep his medals and his final discharge papers in my drawer as cherished heirlooms. Every time my mother sees a soldier she smiles at him, thanks him for his service and says "God bless you." And, whenever we hear "The Star Spangled Banner" she stands up, hand over heart and sings it. Sometimes I even see tears in her eyes. 

Now that I'm older, I no longer see the picture on the mantle as just my grandfather who so happened to be a soldier, but as a Brave Soldier who went to War and gave his very all to his country and paid the steepest price, the slow loss of self. And next time my mom stands up, and places her hand over her heart and sings the "Star Spangled Banner" I think I'll stand up right there next to her.

A picture of my father, circa 1971, in Viet Nam.


Lois Evensen said...

Wow. So very moving. How beautifully written.

Jenn said...

Your daughter is an amazing writer :)

Anonymous said...

Very nice, It made me cry.