Editor’s note: This is the eight essay in a 12-part Father’s Day series entitled, Honoring Fathers Who Serve. In May, we asked readers to submit essays about the men who have served our country.
My father, George B. O’Neil, was drafted and served in two wars. He served as a seaman in the U.S. Navy during World War II and was stationed in Camp Perry Virginia guarding prisoners. My father was honorably discharged, after the death of all the Sullivan Brothers, due to the Sole Survivor Policy. You see, my dad was an orphan and was never adopted. Those in command were alerted of this because my dad never received any mail and when they questioned him he explained that he had no family.
During the Korean War, my dad was once again drafted and became a staff sergeant in the army. Although he was from Massachusetts he was deployed to the 40th division in California and sent to Korea where he was in active battle. He hasn’t really talked about what that was like except for his feet being so cold and getting frostbite. When my dad returned to the United States on a ship, he knelt down and kissed the ground saying, “Thank God, I made it home.” No one was around to greet my father when he returned from the war. My dad was sent to Fort Devens for processing out of the army. While there he was told if he left base not to wear his uniform as the war was unpopular. He did not wear his uniform, which he was proud of, off base.
The reasons I am so proud of my father are too numerous to mention. He led a simple and ordinary life. He was not afforded an education from the orphanage so he always worked hard (he said he was born to work). At 27 he married a nurse he met in Boston, bought a home in Connecticut where he and my mom raised four good and successful children and they eventually settled into retirement. My dad worked until he was 82 years old and he still finds projects to do at 84 (he turns 85 next month) at home and for his children.
My dad is a very patriotic man. When we were little we always attended the local parades to honor our Veterans and as we children got older, we began to understand more and more the sacrifices that he and so many others made so that we can live in the free world. When we said thank you for your service daddy, he teared up and said no one ever said that to him before.
In September 2011, he was able to join many other Veterans and participate in the Honor Flight to the Washington Monuments. He absolutely loved that experience, sharing it with fellow Veterans and volunteers who made the day a memory for a lifetime. He finally got the thank you and welcome home that he never had…people were there to greet him!
I love my dad very much and am honored to write this short essay about a man who has given so much to so many.
Kathleen O’Neil-Meyers is a Nurse Manager with the Department of Veterans Affairs in West Haven, CT.