Veteran’s Day Salute to Dad

For a time he was a soldier. With wiry frame and James Dean good looks, he walked first into the heart of Lois Richey and then rode onto the battlefield of Korea. An iron tank was his chosen coat of arms and he commanded well just south of the DMZ. Occasionally, he weathered enemy fire while dishing out plenty of his own. Comrades in the 4th armored division called him Hank; his bride called him Sweetheart, and years later my sister and I called him Dad. His is one story among many, of men and women who sacrificed something or everything for an abstract notion known as “patriotism” or “love of country.” I think, for Henry, it was something far more tangible than that. He had attempted to enlist years before during World War II, but a temporary medical condition made him fail the physical. So, when the world’s aggression turned to Korea, Hank was ready. Not eager to leave his wife behind, but driven by an inner sense of loyalty to defend what he had always known and refused to relinquish–liberty, be it ours or another people’s–he exchanged oil refinery work clothes for army green and khaki. Dad didn’t speak often about those days. In fact, I’ve learned more recently from his best friend and comrade in arms, Don, than I ever did from Dad himself. Soldiering was something he did because it was right, not something he wore around as an entitlement. Atop my shelf sits what remains physically of his service–a U.S. flag presented to my mother at his death, an officer’s chevron, a gold braided cord from his uniform; but something intangible and far greater remains and will endure. His service for family, friends and country are a memorial to greatness forged in distress, and loyalty superseding personal comfort or preference. In a word, Henry Winstead Fowlkes leaves a legacy, one to salute with life and strive to emulate. Thank you Dad.   

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