A view from my side.
My father was a career military man. He was drafted during the Korean War and went through Officer Candidates School in the late mid 50’s. He did a tour in Vietnam in the early 60’s when he was not allowed to wear a sidearm. My brother and I were both born in khaki diapers, at Ft. Benning, but 7 years apart, on separate tours. We lived at Ft. Benning, Ft. Brag, Ft. Sam Houston, Youngsan (in Seoul, South Korea). Other posts included Ft. Belvoir, Walter Reed, and Arlington Hall. He did unaccompanied stints at the Presidio, the Command and Staff General College at Ft. Leavenworth and a variety of other posts I don’t even remember.
In April, 1975, we were at Clark Air Force Base in Manilla, Philippines. We witnessed history as flights from Operation Babylift landed from Saigon, evacuating thousands of children in the final days before Saigon fell to the North Vietnamese. As we watched, he made sure I understood what was going on. Those memories, and countless others, stay with me as a reminder of my father’s influence on who I became.
From a draftee in the 50’s to a full Colonel in the 80’s, my father served with dignity and distinction. He earned a Master’s in Economics from Emory and Ph.D. in Public Administration from American University. He taught me many things over the course of the time I had with him. Many of them revolved around his military training. He taught me to shoot. I was a Distinguished Marksman by the time I was 15. He taught me how to throw knifes. I could stick a knife into a target from 25 paces. He taught me discipline and self respect. I never doubted myself or my abilities.
In addition to those things he taught me to see the world around me. He gave me my sense of fairness. He opened my eyes to those around me that were not as well off as we were. Over the years we took in a variety of people that needed help. When I was in high school, a friend of mine was kicked out of his house after a disagreement with his parents. He stayed with us for a few weeks while they worked through it. Another friend who suddenly became an orphan stayed with us almost a month while she and her extended family worked out the details of where she was going next.
A real Renaissance Man, he introduced me to Plato, Jules Verne, Mozart, H.G. Wells, Keats, Copernicus, Vonnegut, Galileo, Shakespeare, Chaucer and many, many other things. He taught me to fish, to throw a ball, to run a pattern. He taught me responsibility and he taught me the importance of standing on my own, while not taking anything for granted. I disappointed him only once that I’m aware of, when I declined admission to the Citadel. I redeemed myself later, enrolling in ROTC while holding the rank of Staff Sargeant in a reserve unit. An Honorable Discharge marked the end of that time in my life, but it certainly made my father proud.
He chose to finish his career at Ft. Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas. We moved there in 1978 and he retired in 1985. While he earned the right to be buried in Arlington, he hated Washington, D.C. So, when my father died in 1994, he was buried in Ft. Sam Houston National Cemetery. I’ve been back a few times over the years and will continue to do so from time to time. On Memorial Day, we honor and remember the many men and women who have served our country.
But for me, Memorial Day brings back the memories of Colonel Edwin H. Williams, an officer and a gentleman, but most importantly, my father.