My Father, an Army Veteran, passed away on Tuesday afternoon. My Dad’s health & memory have been deteriorating over the last several years, and although his passing is not unexpected, it is still tough to face in the moment. He passed away on Tuesday afternoon. He recently had his 80th birthday on May 11th and he and my mom celebrated their 55th wedding anniversary on June 8th. My father was brilliant, funny, and an incredible storyteller. He used to say that if you still told stories about the people you knew and loved, they were never truly gone. So in that tradition, if you choose, you can read the story of my father. This is my way to ensure his memory lives on. My dad was a very humble man, and he would probably kill me if he knew me. He was a retired Army officer, and sometimes, when the kids of officers don't go into the service, the relationships can become strained. That was never the case with my dad and me. He was an amazing husband and father. Even though he never fully understood what I did for a living (“that people stuff”) he and I would often toss around ideas about how to tackle problems and develop new solutions to challenges I was facing at work. My dad was born in Philadelphia in 1935 and was the youngest of 5. His father worked in the Philadelphia Naval Yard during WWII and died in 1946. My grandmother was left with a big family and very little to live on. My dad and his brothers worked odd jobs to help earn money and provide for the family. He attended Lansdowne High School, where he met my mother. For my Dad it was “love at first sight”. For my mom, it was quite the opposite. She wanted nothing to do with that boy. He was a bad seed, I think she referred to him as “thug” because….gasp….he skipped school to drink beer…and hung out with a tough crowd…and showed up at an open house with beer on his breath. As she told a close friend, she would “Never marry him….even if he was the last man on earth.” He graduated in 1953 and went to work for the Philadelphia Railroad in the auditing department. After he was laid off, he enlisted in the army because he had no intention of attending college. One morning during formation, the First Sergeant announced, “Anyone who wants to go to West Point, go see the Company Commander”. He tested exceptionally well and started attending the Military Academy in 1956. While he was at West Point, he wrote letters to my mom regularly asking her to come up and visit. It wasn’t until the Spring she agreed to go…a month later they were engaged, but due to Army/West Point regulations they had to wait 3 more years (until he graduated) before they could get married. Dad graduated at 10:00AM on June 8th, 1960, and at 2:00PM they were married. My Dad’s first assignment was Germany (at the height of the Cold War), where he held different roles in the 2nd and 3rd squadrons of the 7th Cavalry. He was there when the Berlin Wall went up. My sister was born in Wurzburg in 1962. He was a platoon leader, troop XO and troop commander while in Germany, but perhaps his most bizarre job (and a bizarre chapter in Army history), was as a leader of a Davy Crockett platoon. The Davy Crockett was the Army’s latest and greatest weapon (in the early 60s) deployed to stop the “invading hordes” of Russians from the east. It was called “an Atomic mortar” (wasn’t everything ‘atomic’ in the early 60s?), but it was in fact an atomic artillery piece designed to lob a low yield atomic warhead into enemy troops. Yep, it looks as ridiculous as it sounds: Think about the genius of this thing. You fire the round…run as fast as you can to avoid the blast radius…don't worry about that pesky radiation…wait a minute…Davy Crockett died at the Alamo…the naming of this thing could not be more appropriate. For More Info: https://en.wikipedia.org/…/Davy_Crockett_%28nuclear_device%… When they came back to the states in 1963, he was assigned to Ft. Knox as a student at the Army Armor School and later became an instructor. I was born there in 1965 (and I think that’s why my sister still calls me the ‘golden child’). In 1967, he was sent to Vietnam to serve as a Calvary Squadron advisor with the South Vietnamese army. He was in country when the Tet offensive took place and saw significant action during his tour. (When we have some time, ask me about the unexploded 500lb bomb…it's a good story). His combat experience was never something he was “proud of” but it was also something he never shied away from. Every year, he would lead a discussion group with students, and other vets, at my high school, where they would discuss the realities of military service. After he came back from Vietnam, he went to Georgia Tech where he received his masters in Operations Research/Systems Analysis. I tried to read his masters thesis once, but all those numbers made my brain hurt. The Army decided he needed to put all that newly acquired knowledge to good use, so they assigned him to lead the development and testing of the TOW Cobra project. This involved attaching anti-tank missiles to an attack helicopter. It looked a LOT cooler than the Davy Crockett: And it was much more effective. Variants of the TOW Cobra system are still being used today. (Ask me about my Dad's presentation to the Secretary of Defense, members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and other high ranking members of the military, it turned out fine, but the "Irish" in my dad, definitely came out during the presentation). He spent another year in Vietnam and was then sent to the Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas...yep...that Leavenworth...the one with all the prisons. After his year at the college, the Army wanted him to return to the Pentagon, my Dad wanted to go back to commanding troops. Here's my version of how the Conversation went: The Army: We have a great new assignment for you back at the Pentagon My Dad: No thanks, I've been away from troops for a while and I would like to go back to a combat command. The Army: No. We really, really want you to go back to DC. My Dad: I'm really not interested in DC. I've got a family and if I work at the Pentagon, I'm afraid I will never see them. The Army: We really, really, really want you to go to the pentagon. If you don't go back to DC, you will have to stay here in Leavenworth until you retire from the Army. My Dad: Ok, I'll stay here, that's a GREAT deal. I'll stay. The Army: (Thinking)...sucker. My Dad: (Thinking)...suckers. So we stayed...in Kansas...for a long, long time. My dad loved it. Me? Not so much. For the last 4 years of his army service, he worked in the Testing and Evaluation Agency to the Combat Development Center designing evaluation protocols for weapons and IT systems. Most of what he did, he couldn't talk about, when my dad said "I could tell you, but then I'd have to kill you," he wasn't joking. Years later I was able to squeeze some non-classified information out of him. I know he spent some time at Area 51 (and no, it didn't involve aliens). When we settled into Leavenworth, my Dad smoothly transitioned from 'Major' Dad or 'Lt Colonel' Dad to just 'Dad' Dad. My sister and I were heavily involved in extra-curricular activities that typically involved games, horse shows, matches, performances, etc, multiple times during the week or consuming an entire weekend. If my Dad was not traveling he was there, even if the event was 2, 3, 4 or 5 hours away (Kansas is a big state). If my sister and I had conflicting events, my folks would split the responsibilities. He coached my teams, coached me in wrestling, started playing soccer at age 42 just so he would understand the game better and be a better coach. The one thing (other than numbers vs people stuff) where my dad and I disagreed was over the yard. We lived on a pretty good sized piece of land, that had a lot of grass, trees, shrubs, etc, and my dad always wanted the yard to look like Disneyland. And it did. Because he had a landscaping 'contractor' who had to do everything he wanted. Me. The yard had to be cut at least twice per week (that took 2.5-3.5 hours). Every other week, all other maintenance had to be performed...and then...twice a year...it was the dreaded YARD SPREE. This was an entire weekend of yard maintenance...the full deal...everything had to be perfect...because at the end of the weekend...everything would be inspected and critiqued. "There are grass clippings over there" "That hedge is uneven" "There's a weed under that bush" I'm not exaggerating...it was that bad. This is actually Disneyworld and it would not have passed inspection, the bushes are uneven and there is a dead leaf on the grass. He won "The Most Beautiful Lawn Award" (yep that's a thing in Leavenworth)... twice. Whose room did the awards hang in? I can tell you it wasn't mine. If that's the worst thing I can say about my dad, then you know my Dad was pretty amazing. After he retired from the Army, he worked for a company called Midwest Research in Kansas City. While he was there he helped the Saudi Arabian government set up their consumer protection department. Eventually the Army offered my Dad a civilian position back at Fort Leavenworth. He worked for the Combat Development Test and Evaluation Command. In his last 5 years of work for the government he was a War Game Advisor for the Battle Command Training Program, which was responsible for training general officers and their staff. He and my mom moved to Sherwood in 2004 to be closer to our daughter. If you've made it this far...thanks. I have dozens (probably hundreds) of other stories about my dad. Racquetball The Sominex award Why Can't you hustle.. Get your @$$ in here right now Painting 'Ms' on M&Ms Don't be afraid to ask me to tell them. My dad was a devoted husband, an amazing father and a loving Grandfather and as long as the stories are told (and re-told) he is never really gone.