Coin Links Son to Father

Editorial written for Union University’s Cardinal & Cream student newspaper
Published on February 22, 2007

This is my father’s third tour of duty in the U.S. Army.

The first time, I was six months old and he went to Honduras for six months. I don’t remember anything about it. I have only seen pictures of a cocky lieutenant in his mid- twenties, tanned and toned by his time in the jungles, holding his toddler son after returning home.

The second time he left was 16 years later, this time to Kuwait for eight months. He wasn’t around when I got my driver’s license, but it honestly was not too bad. We talked to him every week. He was home before Christmas. Everything returned to normal.

It has been three months since my father, now a lieutenant colonel, began training for Iraq. Though he has not yet left the states, his absence already rips at my mother and me. After spending a weekend with my father, my mother brought me a bronze coin bearing a green shield emblazoned with two lightning flashes, yellow over violet, surmounted by a sword.

Keepsakes and mementos help maintain a soldier’s psyche, coming in various forms and meanings. In one tradition, soldiers going into conflict would swap coins bearing their company’s crest, creating an unspoken pact that they will see one another again.

Committing to the promise of returning home, my father passed me a coin that endowed me with a sense of stewardship and manhood.

The two coins my father bought part ways; one goes to war and one stays home. One coin rests in the possession of a man whose hands struggle to pass all of the weapons certifications. The other coin rests in the hands of his son who now struggles to remember all the life-lessons his father taught him.

When I changed the oil in my Ford Explorer without my dad for the first time, I felt loss and empowerment simultaneously. I did it without the old man! Mark one victory for all those times we wrestled and he would use some Army trick to pin me down. No back slap of congratulations came.

The last time I gave my father a hug was a hastened good-bye on New Year’s Day at the departure terminal in Nashville. We honestly did not know if that moment was the last time we would see each other.

My father goes to war loyally and patriotically. As I claim my own identity and opinions, I do not know what to think about the war anymore.

I have only come to two conclusions. I support my father. And I wish to hold both coins in my hands.