Remembering Dad on this Memorial Day

I was that kid! I remember sitting in our living room getting ready to watch the football game on television as they prepared to play the national anthem. My dad loved his football and I can still see him sitting in his big chair in anticipation of the game. As soon as the drum roll began and the cameras panned to the American flag I’d jump up next to my dad’s chair, stand at attention and salute as the band played the Star Spangled Banner. No I don’t make my kids do that today. And yes it makes me laugh and maybe even turn a little red thinking about that scene some 40+ years later. It’s some of what I remember most about my dad ~ his love for God and his love for country. He never took either of those for granted and I suppose his own childhood shaped that commitment as much as anything.

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My dad as a young soldier

Dad grew up in a small village on the western side of American Samoa and wasn’t united with his biological father, and that half of his family, until he was a teenager. Maybe in his struggle to figure out his identity in the “family” he forged his identity in Christ. I do know by the time I came along, he was a soldier in the U.S. Army with an abundant trust in God and a desire to share his faith with other young Samoan men, especially fellow soldiers. That particular passion would eventually lead him to start and pastor the first Samoan church at Ft. Lewis Army Post. Growing up in American Samoa my father developed a respect for his homeland of Samoa but also his governing country of America. At the time, the United States operated a small naval station in Pago Pago harbor and my father joined the Navy as part of the Fita Fita guard made up of locals. This eventually led to my dad moving state side and enlisting in the U.S. Army where he served for 28 years!

Around my house the bible was to be honored and the American flag was to be shown respect. If you wanted to get my dad talking, bring up God or bring up America and he was ready to talk. Notably the other two “top four” loves for dad were family and his native island of Samoa… but that’s for a different blog post! Each year when Memorial Day comes around I’m reminded of my dad’s love of country. Both mom and dad were faithful to visit the graves of soldiers that were no longer with us. Sadly a practice I have failed to pass on as passionately (although this is a new year and another opportunity!). The high school my children attend has made it a little easier. For the last seven years some teachers and a group of students have created a replica of the Arlington National Cemetery on the front lawn of the high school. It has provided a solemn and powerful reminder of the cost of war. We have watched the last seven years as the small white sticks, each with a name, each name representing a fallen warrior, has over taken the front lawn. It’s a sobering experience to take the kids and walk among the replica headstones, knowing children, dads, moms, friends are no longer able to spend time with those whose names we read.

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The Arlington National Cemetery Replica at Clover Park High School

Why do it? For me it’s important my children know that freedom isn’t free. Our spiritual freedom in Christ came at a great cost to our Savior and the freedom we enjoy in our country comes at a great cost to our nation, especially to those honored in Arlington and on the lawn of Clover Park High School. And besides… my dad would have been the first to be there.

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Our daughter considering the cost