59, Leesburg, teacher and writer
They are pinned to the inside of my jewelry armoire. I get them out every year on Veterans Day and wear them on the lapel of my most subdued brown blazer. My father’s Air Force wings — a relic from the happiest years in the life of a man I hardly knew.
He talked occasionally about how much he loved flying but told us few other stories about his early life. To his disappointment, he was on the military transport to Europe when World War II ended, and he was sent back home. When I was a child, I believed that everything after that had been something of a letdown for him. He showed his love by putting food on the table and carefully packing the car for camping trips, his heart cordoned off somewhere inside.
My mother told us that when his training ended, and he wanted to make the Air Force his career, his father forbade him to do so. What lunacy brought forth that edict, and led my father — a grown man — to comply? I can’t ask him why he didn’t do the one thing that made him the happiest, but I think about how our lives would have been different if he had.
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