My father was never particularly proud of being a veteran.
In fact, his time in Vietnam serving in the U.S. Army solidified his disdain and disinterest in American government for the rest of his life. He didn’t follow elections. He rarely voted. When I informed him that this law passed or this local politician was voted out of office he’d say, “Oh? I hadn’t heard.”
So my siblings and I were rare in that, while we had a very close tie to the armed forces, we didn’t necessarily feel the honor of having a father who served—simply because we weren’t raised to.
My dad, William Carreras, passed away three years ago. He was 59 years old. Like any person who loses a parent—especially before you’re “ready” for it—it was difficult. I struggled to find ways to remember my dad, to memorialize him, to celebrate who he was.
Dearborn is a city that’s known for its celebration of those who served our country. I’ve written about veterans’ issues several times, and have been to the Memorial Day Parade, the Veteran’s Day ceremony, and this week, The Wall That Heals.
Dearborn Area Chamber of Commerce President Jennifer Giering and I were talking after the opening ceremony for the wall, which is a replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. ().
She said, “I think there was a lump in everyone’s throat at some point during that ceremony.”
We discussed how the emotions came at different moments depending on one’s family history or experiences, as they are tied to the armed forces.
For me, that lump hit my throat hard when I saw Vietnam veterans talking with people about the war, and when they served, and who they lost. They reminded me so much of my father—right down to his love for motorcycles and his leather jacket. I remembered hearing many of those same stories from him—enlisting as a teenager for reasons he didn't quite understand, the terrifying moments of war, living in a strange country, coming home to no great fanfare and not knowing what to do with his life.
He shared some of that with me as I grew up—memories, stories, emotions. Whether or not he wanted to admit it, good or bad, his time in the army had an effect on him. And when I see things like The Wall That Heals, it becomes apparent that it had an effect on me, too.
My dad may not have been as proud as some to be a veteran, but I’m proud of him, and of all who served and gave their lives for our country. Thank you. Whether or not your name is on a wall, you’re not forgotten.