Note: This post originally ran on Veteran’s Day 2013. I am reposting it today without changes. My emotions remain the same. The facts remain the same—with the exception of the last sentence. I can no longer walk to the end of the street and see a farm. In the past 7 years, the Maples has grown to fill its available space. But that is another post for another day.
My father, Carl Dierksen, tried very hard to become a veteran. And I guess he technically would qualify as one, though he never claimed the honor.
He was 22 when he and my mother married in 1940. The following year, during World War II, he enlisted in the Army Air Corps, both to serve his country and to pursue his dream of becoming a pilot.
Dad reported to a base in Florida, where he had completed several weeks of basic training when he received the news that Mom’s father had died. As bad as that was, it got worse. Mom was an only child, and with her father gone, there was no one to operate the family farm outside of Davenport, Iowa.
Dad was given no choice. His commanding officer told him that his country needed him to be a farmer more than it needed him to be a soldier. He was given an honorable discharge and sent home.
So Dad, who grew up in town as the son of a house painter, became an instant farmer—without the benefit of any basic training. He would spend the next 30 years of his life as a farmer and a family man. He was good at both.
Dad was a humble man. He knew that a few weeks of training had not earned him any recognition on Veterans Day.
If he were still alive, Dad would be flying the flag today. He would be the first to shake a veteran’s hand and thank him or her. Dad might still be wondering if his life would have been different if he had been allowed to stay in the Air Corps.
He never forgot his dream of flying airplanes. When he was in his 50s, he earned his private pilot’s license. A few years later, he bought his own small plane.
Dad lived his last seven years in Woodstock, where he and Mom were my neighbors. I wish he had lived to see my Abbey and Maples at the Sonatas. He would have liked helping me move and doing projects around the house. And he would have always wanted to walk down the street to the place where you can still see a farm in the distance.