George Worthy
George Worthy

Did you have a good Father’s Day this weekend? I think this was just about the best Father’s Day I have had in awhile. Of course I say that every year. They always seem to find a gift that I didn’t even know I wanted until they hand it to me. I tell them I don’t need another gift, but that is just the icing on the cake. 

Their most precious gift is their presence during the day. They flirt with their Grandmother and their Mother, but they try hard to convince me this is a day for me. I find that I don’t argue with them when they do that. This year I reminded them of the best Father’s Day I ever had.

I was in Vietnam as the war was closing down. The Company I commanded was standing down and I was soon to be without a job. I didn’t think about Father’s Day at the time. Of course, I didn’t have any children and I had been out of the country for the past two years. I remember lying on a cot outside the tent at our Battalion Headquarters soaking up some sun when my First Sergeant walked over and told me I was wanted at headquarters. I couldn’t imagine what this was about, but I put on a shirt and scurried over to the C.O.’s building. 

Upon arriving I was ushered into the Colonel’s office. He looked up at me and told me that I was heading home. I was a little concerned and thought the worst until he looked up again and told me that he hated to see me go. I can remember that I told him I sure wanted to stay until we won or lost or whatever we did to end this blood bath that we had been involved in. I was told that a lot of the men wanted to stay, but the war was winding down and he had just received a message that my father was in the hospital.

“You are going home on an emergency leave and you leave tomorrow. Since you are so short, you will be reassigned stateside.” (Short meant that my time was short in that hellhole we called Vietnam.) I could go on about how I ran all over the place looking for members of my Company. I wanted to say goodbye to these men I had walked and crawled and climbed up and down the steepest mountains with in Vietnam. I wanted to tell them how much they meant to me and how proud I was of them. The first Sergeant sent the runner all over the place looking for the men of my company who had been enjoying the break from ever vigilant duty.

Most of the men in my company were found and a rag tag formation was held for me to say goodbye. I had known these men for less than a year and I had to say goodbye. It was the hardest thing I had ever done. When you eat, sleep, wash and laugh with these men, some of whom had to stay in Vietnam for another few months before they went home, it is one of the hardest things you will ever do. Or at least it was for me. Tears were shed by all of us. 

The First Sergeant had somehow come up with a class “A” uniform and I changed and walked back over to where I was given a ride in a Jeep to the airport. There I was told to get on the helicopter and fly up to Da Nang. Our airport was too short and exposed to land a commercial airliner. When we got to Da Nang there was another jeep that took me to the idling commercial airplane. I was next to the last guy that got on the plane before it started rolling down the tarmac and lifted off for home. What a roar from the back of the plane when it lifted off. Nothing much to say after that most everyone on the plane was sleeping. We flew to Japan where we refueled and then lifted up for San Francisco.

When I got to San Francisco, I rented a car and set out for Bakersfield. I drove straight to the hospital and found out what room my dad was in and walked in unannounced. It was the only time in my life that I witnessed tears in my father’s eyes. Of course that brought forth my tears and we just held each other until my dad said he couldn’t breathe. We started laughing at the thought of me coming all the way home to squeeze the life out of my dad. A nurse walked in about that time and said she was moved to tears to see us loving each other on Father’s Day. My Pop passed about three weeks later, but I held him close before I left for my next assignment. 

Tara, Austin and Reed — you are my shining stars, and I thank God everyday for you. As for my Dad, I’ll never forget that day, which is why Father’s Day has always meant everything to me.

God Bless.

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Gonzales columnist George Worthy may be reached at [email protected].


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