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April 8th, my father lost the battle with the lung disorder he picked up somewhere in Viet Nam, riding around in airplanes full of Agent Orange dust. We've known the day was coming for years, but Dad wasn't one to sit at the door with his bags packed, waiting for Death to come and offer him a ride. When he found out that his lungs wouldn't get any better, and in fact would only get worse, he set about a serious diet and exercise program that lost him very nearly 100lbs in just more than two years. He figured, rightly, that if he couldn't get better lungs, he might make himself smaller and more efficient, to get better use out of what lungs he had left. He had a brief bout with pneumonia in February, but recovered marvelously, we all thought. But something was stirring, and it came roaring back that first week of April.

My problem is that all of my life, I've had this image of my father as this bullet-proof Marine. And it was hard to reconcile that with the man who sick off and on these last several months, and really hard to reconcile that with his passing, now. Every day I have found myself wanting to call Dad and ask for advice, or talk about a race on TV, or something I'd read in a magazine, or crow a little about some triumph at work. All I ever wanted out of life was my father's approval, and now that he's gone, I'm kind of without a rudder. He was always there for me. When I was sick, when I was in the hospital, when I was married and when I was divorced, when I lost my own son, when I lost my job. In 2000 we had a huge traffic accident and he was there at the scene within minutes, and stayed with my wife and myself for the whole day at the emergency room. And now I wonder, at 47, who I'm going to call the next time some jackass runs a red light and clobbers us?

My father was very nearly 73 when he died. I can't say that we were cheated. He was overweight for much of his life. He smoked for a few years around two tours in Viet Nam. Until the last few years he just wasn't interested in diet and exercise. Still, it's hard not to think we were cheated out of another 300, 500, 1000 days.

Then again, there many opportunities over the years for him to have left us much earlier. He was in Korea in the spring of 1950, and in Viet Nam twice. Still, it's hard to see that we had 12,000 extra days. What I see is that he's gone, now.

My father wanted me to be sure to get him "the real, by-God Marines" for his services. He said he'd been to "too many funerals where they those damned Civil War veterans from the Legion and the VFW running around in five different directions!" We got him a rifle squad, a Navy bugler, and even a gentleman with bagpipes to play him to his rest. As I mentioned in his eulogy, it's common at funerals for people to say things like "Well, he's in a better place, now". But Marine Corps kids grow up knowing that this is certainly true.

For if the Army, and the Navy,
Every look on Heaven's scenes,
They will find the streets are guarded,
by United States Marines.

We raised more than $850 and will also give Dad's swords to the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society ( ). Dad got a field commission in Da Nang, and retired as a Captain, so he had both swords for enlisted and officer duty. Those will have "A Gift From" enscribed over his name and be presented to some young kids who don't need to go into debt like that to be turned out for a wedding or funeral once or twice a year. If you have any extra coin, you might consider shooting some of it their way. They do good work, and take care of good people.

I hate crying. I'm 47, and feel like the world's biggest kid this last month. But I am grateful for all the Marines did for my dad and my family and my country, and I want you folks to know that you will not be forgotten, just because another old war-horse from LeJeune is gone. Semper Fi, Dad. Semper Fi.
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