I went because my father couldn't. I went to uphold his name and be a reflection of his life. I went to support my mother. I went for myself.
One of my father's closest Navy "brothers" retired last Saturday after 30 years of serving our country. He and his wife were there with my parents when my father tragically and somewhat quietly left this world. They followed the ambulance my mother and father were in, in another ambulance, and when my mother emerged, alone, they were standing there. Her guardian angels she says. They stayed in the hospital with her until my brother and I arrived at 3am, the morning of March 3. It was cold, the weather, the hospital, the morgue where I almost threw up. Bone-chilling and blurry is all I can remember.
This past Saturday was quite the opposite. There was as much sympathy as there was kindness in all of their warm and friendly faces. They talked of my father, remembered him with an empty seat during the ceremony. Steve's speech began recognizing that empty seat, thanking him for his duty, his friendship, and loyalty. I remember them reading The Watch during my father's service, the tone and the tradition gets me right in my core. I honestly love the pomp and circumstance of the military. The tears were unstoppable until one friend told the story of how my father became known as "cheeks". Laughter, hugs, and fawning over my children happily took place.
We drove from Scotia to Delmar, stopping to indulge the kids in a small toy along the way. During dinner Luke shucked his dress shirt to parade around in his "My Grandpa Was a Seabee" shirt, he was met with many smiles and lots of "awwws, look at him!" We were there as they all sang the Seabee song, a boisterous and bold anthem that I remember four of my father's "brothers" singing at the end of our wedding after all four of them danced with both me and John in a huddle/embrace. Luke proudly carried his Chief coin that (I believe, unless I'm making this up) my father had commissioned shortly before he died.
I am proud to have been a part of this day. And even prouder of all that my father accomplished during his lifetime, 8 years later and his presence is still a void even to his Navy family. I can only hope to influence my community in such a way.