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Today is Memorial Day. So I thought I would share a little about my dad, Hal Lockwood. He’s the guy on the left in that photo above.
This is a story about how I am so proud of my dad’s service. But it’s also a bittersweet story for me to tell because it also involves my father’s best friend Jack Logan, who was killed in Vietnam.
When the movie Top Gun came out and it showed a person on an aircraft carrier ship directing an airplane once it landed, my dad turned to me and proudly said, “That was my job when I was serving.” He was responsible for the airplane once it landed on the carrier.
For years, that’s all I knew about my dad’s military service. He went into the Navy not long after he graduated from High School in 1962. But there was so much more to what happened after his service.
After his first tour in the Navy, dad came home to Mentor, Ohio. His cousin Gil Peck, who lived across the street from my grandparents, was smitten with my mom’s best friend Diane. The two couples went on a double date. My parents didn’t know one another before that date, but a spark was there.
At the time, my mom — Kathleen Donlon — worked at the telephone company as a telephone operator. Because of his Navy training, my dad also worked at the telephone company. He was the guy that climbed telephone poles to repair them. And he says he often called my mom from the top of them to see if she wanted to go out on another date with him.
And she did.
After a year-long courtship, both couples married. My parents — he was 22, she was 21 — married in January 1966. The best man at his wedding was Jack Logan. A month later Jack joined the Marines and was a scout in S-2 intelligence in Cambodia.
My parents had my older sister Kristie that year. I’m not sure if he ever got to meet Kristie, but I know he didn’t get to meet me and my younger sister Kelly. Jack died in Vietnam in December in Quang Tri Province in South Vietnam.
Killed by friendly fire, “a plane dropped several 500-pound bombs on a Rockpile hillside, where they ricocheted off shale and fell upon his reconnaissance patrol in the jungle below,” according to a story by the News-Herald.
After Jack’s death, my dad wanted to do a second tour and that was that. Bags packed, my dad was ready to go back to fight in the war. But my mom had a bad feeling about this.
What would they do if he didn’t come back?
“If you want to serve your country, find another way, Hal,” my mom told my dad. “But the answer isn’t killing more people.”
She talked him into becoming a volunteer firefighter. A few years later, I was born and then my younger sister, Kelly. Joining the volunteer fire department was his way of honoring Jack… by helping others continue to live theirs.
Every once in a while my dad talks about Jack. When we went to Washington DC as kids, my parents made sure that we went to the wall to get a rubbing of his name carved in granite.
To this day, my dad gets together with several high school buddies every month. They talk about Jack.
This story has stayed with me for several reasons. It reminds me of how proud I am of my dad’s service to his country, how lucky I am to be here and how lucky I am to know him. I know my dad misses Jack.
I am also reminded how we are all called to serve one another. That’s what we do. That’s what we should do, at least. Sometimes I think we forget that. But every time I think of Jack… a man I never knew, I am reminded of his service and the sacrifice he made. And I honor that just as much as my dad’s service.
Who do you honor?