October 4, 2008 Peter

My Dad, the Navy Seal, and what he taught me.

I was cleaning up some things in the house and came across a photo album that my dad put together before he died of some of his photos while he was in the Navy. In fact, he took all our family photos that he had and itemized all of them in albums which he then put in his old office. That room is really our little family photographic library.

He was a Navy Seal during the Vietnam War and at least what I counted he did 7-10 tours. A Seal buddy of his told me, “he felt he had nothing better to do, so he just volunteered for everything.” As you can imagine, he was very much to the point when he dealt with his sons. What I do remember about him during my childhood was that he would give us very specific boundaries that we could not cross. However, those boundaries were broad and as a result gave us a lot of room to be ourselves. Here are a few things that he did teach me:

  • “You only get sick if you want to” (take the principle of this, he was a SEAL)
  • “Son, you’re going to go if you like it or not. Deciding if you have a good time is up to you.”
  • “There is nothing wrong with being scared but never let it make your decisions for you”
  • “A person can’t play the victim for the rest of their lives”
  • “Son, You can ask me for anything that you want. You may not get it but I can guarantee you that if you don’t ask for it, you won’t get it at all.”

When my dad and two brothers moved out to NC to live with my grandmother and grandfather in a 3 bedroom house that had only one bathroom it was a little packed. One thing I will always remember about my dad is that in order for my brothers and i to have a little more room he slept on the couch. It wasn’t until about 7 years later that he got to actually sleep in a bed when he added more bedrooms to the house.

One summer, on a family trip, we were at a hotel down in Florida that had a pool. My brothers and I wanted to go swimming that night but the problem was that the lights weren’t working. My dad let us swim anyway and you can imagine how scared a little kid might be to go swimming in a pool that you couldn’t see the bottom.

One of the last tests that we had to do to get my PADI certification before going to open water was to swim to the bottom of the pool and take of all of our aqua gear including your mask. We were to then swim back up to the surface and then back down to put the gear on. Well, I finished it fine but my brother had some trouble. It can get kinda interesting when you are down at the bottom of the pool and you are straped in and can’t find your air. My dad gave us a lesson about being calm in those types of situations because he had scene people die from letting things get out of control that really didn’t need to be.

To think about it, it seems that my dad taught us to overcome a lot of our fears as kids. I think that he did this because he realized that so many people have failed when they didn’t have to because they were to scared to act. My dad received an award while he was in the war for saving someone who got shot in the midst of a fire fight. His team was on a boat in a river and the enemy was on its bank giving them some heavy fire. Well, his friend got shot and was about to slide into the water. So my dad got up in plain view of the enemy and pulled that guy back in.

Here is a song by Montgomery Gentry that reminds my of my dad every time I hear it. By the way….who has been influential in your life?

Montgomery Gentry, “I Ain’t Got It All That Bad Lyrics

I ain’t got it all that bad
There’s tougher lives I might’ve had
Sometimes I live hand to mouth
But there are those that go without
Might be things I wish I had
But when I look at where I’m at
I ain’t got it all that bad

In my time I’ve tried it all
Free love, drugs and alchohol
Got loaded up to kiss the sky
Just about kissed the world good-bye
There were those who never made it back
Me, I got lucky, found a landing pad
Hey, I ain’t got it all that bad

I’ve got the sunshine and a few good friends I’ve found
A roof to give me shelter when the rain comes down
I’ve got tomorrow and the promise that it brings
A few chances still worth taking and a dream that still has wings

These days I don’t ask for much
Just the grace of God and my woman’s touch
Strength each day to face a fight
And a place in someone’s prayers at night
Life enough to love and laugh
If I end up with half of that
I ain’t got it all that bad

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