My dad was drafted into the United States Army in 1968, and he was deployed in Vietnam when I was born. Although he was on the “Hell no, we won’t go!” side before he was drafted, the military can have a way of reforming bad boys. When he returned to the U.S. from Vietnam, he told my mom that he wanted to reenlist. She wasn’t too thrilled with the idea of being a military wife, but she knew he had found his calling.
For the next twenty years he continued to reenlist. He worked his way up from private to W-4 warrant officer, which is the second highest rank an enlisted person can attain, before retiring from military service. He was a natural leader, and he had an ability to get along very well with almost everyone he met. He loved his country, and he loved being a soldier.
My mom, sisters, and I weren’t always happy about having to move every couple of years, or being without him when he would leave for training or other military obligations, but we knew that when you love someone who serves, then in a way you must also serve. My sisters and I loved our dad so much that we would argue over who got to take his combat boots off for him when he came home from work!
His main job in the Army was as a cook, and by the end of his career he was running all of the food service on the base. He also did a stint as a recruiter, which he enjoyed. One of my favorite stories from that time involved a young recruit who when asked if he had any special skills responded “I can duck.” My dad questioned “Duck?”, and the kid said “Yeah, like this!”, then he ducked behind the desk.
When my dad retired from the military, we moved back to his home state of Nebraska, where he hoped to someday fulfill a longtime dream of opening his own restaurant. A couple of years after we moved here, my dad suffered a sudden brain aneurysm which first put him into a coma, and then ended his life at the age of 43. Although he didn’t die in combat, or even while he was active military, he did give his life to his country, and for that I wanted to memorialize him today.
“I’m not conceited because conceit is a fault, and I have no faults!” -Chief Warrant Officer James L. Crapson