I am blessed. My father is still alive and I have the pleasure of calling him every day. It would be nicer to live closer, but that isn’t my reality, so I have to be satisfied with being able to talk with him.
My father is a remarkable man. He shouldn’t be alive. If he had looked at his circumstances and let them rule his life, he wouldn’t be here and neither would I. Some will think that is an exaggeration, but it isn’t.
My father was born and raised on a small farm in the heartland of America. He lost his mother the same year he graduated high school. I believe this was an experience that fueled many of decisions that formed the life he built.
He was drafted toward the end of World War II, but was inured prior to being shipped overseas so he didn’t serve. Years later, he was called back when the US was entrenched in the Korean Conflict. In boot camp, his extreme intelligence shot him to the top of his class. He excelled at trigonometry, interesting as he had been educated in a one room schoolhouse near his childhood farm.
This exceptional math ability changed the trajectory of military career. Rather than be shipped to the front-line, he was selected to participate in Guided Missile training and teach trigonometry to his fellow enlistees. About this time, our government was experimenting with atomic energy and needed guinea pigs. For reasons I will never understand, the US military chose the best and the brightest to use as testers.
Early May 1953, my father was one of those chosen to participate in Operation Upshot-Knothole. Lucky him. He was subject to an experience none of us can imagine. He had the ‘pleasure’ to climb into a bunker to witness the explosion of an atomic bomb less than a mile away. The group he was serving with was ordered to stand and absorb the full shock wave of the blast with their bodies then climb out of the bunkers and walk toward the impact sight to take measurements and record their observations. These are the men who are now acknowledged as Atomic Veterans. My father is an Atomic Veteran.
This was the bomb changed our lives. The hospitals were ill equipped to diagnose the illnesses that beset my father following the bomb. The irony is they didn’t diagnose him with radiation sickness, which is what he had, they continued to take more x-rays trying to diagnose him with tuberculosis. The poor man would endure daily x-rays in a machine that was built somewhat like an iron lung. How he survived all of the radiation he was treated with, one will never know. I am just grateful that he did and that he has continued to live his life with that same intestinal fortitude. I am hoping just a smidgen of it has worn off on me.
Happy Father’s Day!