Monday, September 20, 2010

My White Haired Rock

Most people don’t think much of my father when they first meet him. A tall wire-thin stick of a man with a head full of white hair whose only comb is whatever breeze happens to be in the air. When I look at my father I see a man whose family survived in Nazi Germany during World War 2. I see a man who fought in Vietnam and was spit on when he returned home. Most of all I see a man who has not only been there for me, but who has supported every decision I’ve ever made. My father is one of the toughest, hardworking, and compassionate people I’ve ever met in my life.
My father was born in the summer of 1941 in Berlin, Germany. His mother, not wanting to raise a child under the rule of Hitler, had contacted her brother in America to arrange safe passage out of Germany. Leaving wasn’t necessarily the easiest feat to accomplish but they manage to make their way safely to England where they were put on a boat headed to Ellis Island.
After starting a new life and eventually remarrying, my Grandmother relocated the family to Pittsburgh. The man she married was a former Marine and was the main reason my dad joined the service. When my dad enlisted the Vietnam War was in full effect. He served two tours of duty in Vietnam. He was awarded two Purple Hearts in that time. The first was during his first tour when he was shot in the thigh and the second was during his final year when he was shot in the shoulder.
Over the years I asked my dad a vast number of questions. I used to ask the same typical questions that the majority of young men do. Although in the past few years I started asking him more detailed ones about his time in the service. I asked him whether or not he crossed paths with his brother who was also serving. I inquired whether or not he had killed anybody during his tours. I even struck up enough courage to ask him once what the worst thing he had witnessed during his time. It turns out that he and my Uncle had in fact crossed paths and my Uncle was with him when my dad was shot in the shoulder. As for the killing question he was a little more evasive with his answer. He told me, “I shot them bastards that shot me but they weren’t the only ones who got what they deserved.” So naturally I assumed that was a yes. He has yet to answer the last question for me and I doubt he ever will.
All of that is but a distant memory now. My father has moved on with his life and rarely talks about those old times. He has been married to the same woman for nearly three decades. He has raised three children and is currently assisting my sister with raising hers. I’m highly optimistic about my nephew’s chances in life because we will have a mentor in common. So no, he may not look like much to most people, but to me he is my white haired rock.


  1. Whoa.. the guy was in Word War II?\

  2. Good stuff. Respect for our elders is...not nearly common enough.