Fathers sometimes get the short end of the stick. After more than a couple of decades where popular culture has often made them look like know-nothing chuckleheads, or an accessory—instead of a necessary part of a child’s life—the image of fathers has taken a beating. That could be partly because of the culture, and partly because of the fact that some people don’t have a positive experience with fathers. Maybe they had one who was absent, either physically or emotionally. After all, most men can father a child but not all men can be a Dad.
Those are the fathers that are celebrated this weekend: the fathers and father figures in our lives, who raised us, guided us and protected us as we grew up.
Marine Captain Jeff Kuss was a father of two young children. He grew up wanting to fly fighter jets and saw his dream come true. He was a member of the Blue Angels, an elite team of Navy and Marine aviators who perform in airshows A couple of weeks ago, while practicing for a Blue Angels performance for an airshow in Tennessee, his jet crashed and Capt. Kuss lost his life. It’s believed that he did not eject himself from the aircraft on purpose in order to save the lives of innocent people on the ground. The area of Smyrna, Tennessee where Capt. Kuss was flying was a heavily-populated area filled with apartments, offices and people who were just there to watch the Blue Angels practice. In staying with his plane, as fighter pilots are trained to do when the possibility of hitting civilians exists, Capt. Kuss died a hero. A dad and a patriot doing what comes naturally to dads—sacrificing and protecting. But most would never call themselves heroes. They’re just doing what good dads do.
Your dad may never have flown a fighter jet. Most likely, he earned his living doing things the world sees as less spectacular and less heroic than a Blue Angel. If your dad was an accountant, a plumber or a farmer, it doesn’t matter. Great dads and heroes can be found in humble places.
My dad wasn’t a pilot, though he did serve his country honorably in the Air Force during the Korean War. But to me and my six brothers and sisters, he was a hero. He worked very hard—at times working multiple jobs—to provide for us. Later in life, once he got his first computer and taught himself to use it, he became a writer. He never would have called himself a writer (I don’t think), but he wrote short opinion pieces to his local newspaper from a conservative viewpoint.
I always told my dad he should start a blog, but he wasn’t interested. So after he passed away in 2012, I wanted to share some of his wisdom from those articles on the Liberty Bell Blog, and a couple of those have been posted here and here over the years. I encourage you to read them because it’s amazing how much he could see of where the country was headed. I have a notebook of my dad’s that he kept near his computer where he wrote down websites and notes on things he was researching. But most of the pages in the notebook are filled with quotes from famous people, mostly of our nation’s Founding Fathers. Here’s one from Samuel Adams that he must have found important at the time, and I think speaks volumes about where we are now: “The general dissolution of principles and manners will more surely overthrow the liberties of America than the whole force of the common enemy.”
Dad’s notebook isn’t much to look at—it’s really only a part of a notebook that doesn’t even have the front cover on it, and slips of paper with other random notes falling out of it. It could have easily been thrown away as a list of websites that may or may not still exist. To me it’s priceless. What makes it valuable is what’s inside, because it has things written in Dad’s own hand that were important to him: his notes for his articles, websites he used for his research and ones he just liked to visit regularly…and the quotes. Wisdom from the Founding Fathers that my father found noteworthy. That reminds me of a t-shirt that he used to wear that had one of his favorite quotes on it from the Bible, from Ecclesiastes 10:2: “A wise man’s heart directs him toward the right, but the foolish man’s heart directs him toward the left.” Sounds like a conservative blogger to me.
I keep that t-shirt and the unassuming, partial notebook written by my hero who’s now in heaven… but I would have kept it even if it had only been a list of websites that may or may not still exist.
Happy Father’s Day, Dad!
With tomorrow being Memorial Day, it’s important that we all take the time sometime during the course of this weekend to remember those who have given their lives in defense of freedom. While it’s a good idea to appreciate all veterans for their service every day—and we have Veterans’ Day in November as well–Memorial Day is a particular time to salute the ones who never made it home.
One of those was Special Operations Chief Aaron Vaughn, a Navy SEAL who was highly decorated for his service during his many deployments around the world—including several to Afghanistan and Iraq. He was among 30 servicemen killed in action in Afghanistan on August 6, 2011 when his CH-47 Chinook helicopter was shot down. He left behind a wife and two very young children—his youngest, a daughter, was just 8 weeks old at the time of his death. She’ll never remember being held by him or get the chance to walk down the aisle with him by her side on her wedding day.
Such is the case with thousands of children whose parents (usually their fathers) are taken away as they bravely defend our freedom in foreign lands. As a way to honor SOC Vaughn, his family started a non-profit organization that reaches out to these fatherless children in a meaningful way. Operation 300 holds camps in Florida for children who lost their dads in war. For a few days, the widows can meet with other widows while the kids go and have extreme adventures with mentors—men who provide them with guidance and memorable adventures such as riding horses, archery, shooting guns, sailing and surfing. According to the family, Aaron was fun and adventurous, and these are the kinds of things he would have loved doing himself. He was also a man of deep faith, who knew from the time he was a little boy that he wanted to be a Navy SEAL, and these camps give the kids more than just a chance to have fun. The camps give them the opportunity to create memories with men of integrity.
Operation 300 Founder and President, Tara Vaughn Baldwin (Aaron’s sister) said, “It is only fitting that to honor him, we give kids who have lost so much the opportunity to live like Aaron…if only for a short time.”
The organization has big dreams for the future. They are hoping to buy property of their own in order to establish a permanent home for Operation 300. They hold at least 4 camps each year, which benefit about 100 children, and all expenses for the children of these fallen heroes and their mothers are paid for by the organization. If you feel inclined to do so, donations can be made here.
“Greater love has no one than this: that one lay down his life for his friends.” -John 15:13