Editor’s note: This is the twelfth 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.
I write of my dear Dad, Daniel C. Crawford, and his loyalty to the U.S. Navy Seabees in the Vietnam War (1967-1969). He served in the Deckhouse Operations off the coast Vietnam landing the South Vietnamese Army. He served with the U.S. Navy Seabees (MCB5) on two additional tours to Dong Ha and Danang. He served also on an island in Diego Garcia building the basic infrastructures for a permanent Navy base.
My father was born in Cleveland, Ohio. His family had hit very hard times during his entire youth. My grandmother, Elaine M. Chambers, always instilled in my father that there is a duty for each citizen of this country and that duty is to be willing to fight for the United States if called upon.
My father, his twin (William G. Crawford) and their younger brother (John T. Crawford Jr.) knew that there may come a time when military service could be required. There was a draft in the United States at the time. My father (Navy) and his twin William (Marine Corps) decided to enlist in 1966. The worry of their number being drawn in the draft was no concern to them. Their younger brother John (Marine Corps) followed in 1971. His number was never drawn in the lottery. My father and his twin served in Vietnam and both were awarded the Combat Action Ribbon and several more awards.
My father returned home from Vietnam torn over the hundreds of orphans he had seen while serving in the different towns and villages of the Republic of Vietnam. He immediately began working with the Sacred Heart Orphanage and Sister Angela, inquiring Father John Tabor, (a former Seabee who stayed in Vietnam to be ordained a catholic priest) as to how he could adopt a Vietnamese child. It took my Dad several years working with Sister Angela and an orphanage sponsored organization (Friends of Families and Children of Vietnam) before he selected a child and the work to adopt began.
My Dad worked hard in this adoption project and the process was very stressful. Due to the slow movement of the process my Dad took a leave of absence in 1971 from his position with the City of Cleveland as a Police Officer. He went to the U.S. Navy and asked if he could be assigned to a Seabee Team in Vietnam if he reenlisted. The recruiter was happy to accommodate him with an enlistment, however he never made it back to Vietnam. He was assigned to an atoll in the middle of the Indian Ocean (Diego Garcia). This certainly created a tedious and long scenario in his accomplishment of adopting a Vietnamese child.
My Dad gave up two years of his life for the reenlistment. This was time when most veterans coming home from the War were dealing with themselves and their post traumatic disorder. The sacrifice, which was unselfish but no doubt determined, in adopting an orphan from Vietnam was indeed in my father’s psyche and then had become a duty in adopting a Vietnamese orphan.
The time came. On May 12, 1973 I was able to be delivered into my Dad’s arms from a man named Father Robert Crawford (no relation) as he was my escort from To Am Nursery, Vietnam via Paris and then John F. Kennedy airport.
I am forty years old and have had a most fruitful and fulfilling life. I am happily married to a man who does show and present to me the qualities my father shared with me. My father retired as a police officer in Cleveland and a federal agent for twenty-years. He has always been there for me. I know that my brother and sister (also adopted by my Dad) continue to have three characteristics which my father instilled in us. Just ask my Dad what is the secret to life. One might answer “a good cup of coffee” or “a million dollars.” Not my Dad. Here is his answer: the secret to life is “to have COMPASSION, EMPATHY and a SENSE OF HUMOUR toward your fellow man.”
My father does suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. However he continues to assist veterans from all the campaigns, wars and services in obtaining their earned benefits.
To end this essay I must say that the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs both the Hospital side and the Benefits side has always supported my Dad in his life changing health and mental problems. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has always been there for my Dad. I have gone to the VA hospitals in Cleveland and Brecksville, Ohio; Panama City and Gainesville, Florida; Nashville, Tennessee; and Bowling Green, Kentucky. My father’s treatment has always been from the United States Department of Veterans Affairs. There has never been a time when every VA hospital and the staff of the VA Hospitals did not display my Dad’s lifelong belief of characteristics toward him and our family: COMPASSION, EMPATHY and SENSE OF HUMOUR.