Before I start, let me say I have no idea what is about to follow. I am a very "stream of conscience" writer, so bear with me.... This is a story about my father. He is no one you would have known or recognized, I am sure. He was a good man, honest, hard working, loyal, and decent. My father grew up in a small town called Cold City, W. Va. He came from a relatively poor family, and had 3 brothers and 2 sisters. During his late teens, my father worked part time in the coal mines to help support his family. When the time came, rather than wait for a draft, my father enlisted in the US Air Force. He server tours in Viet Nam, Guam, Cambodia, Thailand, and Japan. He was first a mechanic, later advancing to a survival trainer. He had the unenviable job of taking scared-shitless kids and teaching them how to survive if they were shot down, and what to do if that happened in enemy territory. Since this was in the middle of the conflict, most of that training took place on the ground in those remote locations. For some of those men, this might have been the most survival training they ever got. Something happened over there. He never spoke to us about it. Although I was only 2 when he left, and about 10 when he retired, I knew that he was different from the man who left to serve his country. The only thing that we know is that at some point, a plane crashed a few hundred yards off shore, and my father and his men tried their best to save the pilot and crew. I only know that much because I overheard him talking to his military friends one night. After leaving the Pacific, he was stationed back home at Barksdale AFB, Bossier City, LA. This is where he would ultiamtely retire. When he was in his early 50's, he was diagnosed with prostate cancer. During the doctor's investigation, my father admitted having been exposed to Agent Orange. When he applied for benefits, he was told that, due to a fire in the warehouse where the personnel records were kept, there was no proof of his ever bing in Viet Nam. Since he was stationed in places like Thailand, his trips to to VN were usually short hops - a few days here, a week or two there. But, we had no proof so my father decided to let it slide. Last year - tragically enough - on my mother's birthday, he was diagnosed with acute cancer in his lungs, and metastasis (sp?) to the brain. The doctors gave him 3-4 months at the most. My father fought hard, and managed to get 7 months, but the last 3 were hell. When I went to be with my mother and him, he was confused a lot. He often thought he was back in the military, and was supposed to be readying planes and equipment. Even then, 30 years after his retirement, 40 years after the war, he wanted to do his duty - to help his fellow soldiers. Every time he laid down for a nap, his dreams would bring him back to whatever event it was that happened while he was there. I still don't know exactly what it was - but watching him relive it, I know it was awful. When he reached a point that he could not be cared for at home any more, he went to a hospice, where he died 3 weeks later. I watched him in his hospital bed. He was holding up a blanket and checking every square inch. Once in a while, he would stop and do something peculiar with his hands. I watched for a long time, and finally realized that, in his mind, he was inspecting and repairing parachutes - one of his duties when he was first enlisted. My father passed away in November of last year. He had a military funeral, and I cried like a baby through the whole thing. Now, my mother is working with veteran's affairs. The docs say that my father's condition was most likely caused by his exposure in VN. But, since we have no proof of his ever being there, it is unlikely my mother will get widow's benefits. But that is not what this is about. I hope that all of you in the military who read this, take it into your minds and hearts. My father was just another grunt on the ground. But his actions, his dedication, and his loyalty kept untold numbers of soldiers safe, and saved their lives. He never got a medal or a citation - he was just doing his job. So, if you are in the military, I want to say "thanks" for doign your job. No matter what it is - pilot, infantry, or just a grunt like my father. And, I hope that you realize the sacrifices of those who went before you, adn appreciate the dedication of those who are with you today. Because even if you are just repairing jeeps in the motorpool, that vehicle may save someone's life tomorrow. God bless you all. And again - thank you.