Our first destination was Waipio. Dad was driving because he knew the way, and I was the furiously busy photographer. I’m too lame to be able to upload pics while I’m here, so I’ll add them later.
As I listened to traditional Hawai’ian music on the radio, I was daydreaming about how good life is and how fortunate I am. Suddenly, he said “how far up highway 99 are we?” Before I could answer, we had turned into a little apartment complex. He actually found the apartment- 6A- where he and my mom had lived. I’ve seen the photos of him as he carried her over the threshold. He called my mom and they relived old memories as he looked out upon the apartments of their old friends.
We headed next to Schofield Barracks where Dad had worked. We entered the gate and they started checking our IDs. Let me pause for a moment: my dad is so gregarious that he doesn’t always understand when he’s too close to someone, or if he’s boring them, or whatever. So I was a little nervous that we’d bother someone as we entered.
How silly of me.
As we presented our IDs to three twenty-year-old servicepeople, he told them in his most Nostalgia Dad voice: “I lived and worked here forty years ago.” Instead of looking bored like many 20-year-old strangers would, all three of them perked up and were very interested in his story. He shared a few moments with them and we entered the Barracks.
We found the place where he had once lived. We entered, and I was worried that two civilians might be kicked out of the place. We looked at the board listing chain of command. Some young kid- 19 maybe?- passed us and we were starting to receive some glares of “why are you civvies here?” My dad told the kid, in the same voice as before, “I lived and worked here forty years ago.” Like the others, he actually perked up and asked Dad some questions.
I could continue the theme of everyone we met hearing Dad say those same words, and their respect for him as a result. Dad found his old office and we took pictures again. As we left, he shook hands with the guys and said, “thank you for what you do for our country.” The reply: “No, sir, thank YOU for paving the way for us. Thank you for your leadership 40 years ago.” I was floored.
It wasn’t a one-time thing either. That happened again on our way down the stairs as he thanked someone for their service and they said, “If it weren’t for your sacrifice, I wouldn’t be here today.”
I think war is the heartbreak of civilization, but meeting these men and women was extraordinary. They were all respectful, well-groomed, and the way they carried themselves made me stand a little straighter and give them the respect they deserve. I have always respected that these folks put themselves in danger so that I can be free to disagree with the government and say so. Now, it’s not as abstract: I truly honor them and the sacrifices that they make for us. Not only that, but I saw my dad in a new way too. He lived that life once and its lessons have stayed with him for a lifetime.
We went to a beach on the north shore after that, and the peaceful calm gave Dad a chance for a nap and me a chance for some yoga and reflection. Life is good.