Monday, May 31, 2010

Remembering My Father, A Deceased War Hero

My father, the late Ret. Army Major Vester Brooks Smith, was a decent human being. He was not perfect. He had his character defects and flaws like most people do. In 1993, he died at the age of 73 in Memphis, Tenn. He lived his whole life practically down south except for time when he lived out west as a child. I will always honor him and his memory as a father and as a war veteran.  Most importantly, he was a war hero. He enlisted in the United States Army National Guard at the age of 17 in 1937. He lied about his age because in those days they didn't have computer system to keep up with people's Social Security numbers and etc. Apparently, during the depression years in America, a lot of young men lied about their age in order to join the military forces. It was way out of poverty for these boys and their families.
After his graduation from high school in 1939, he was called up to go fight in War War II in the European theaters as well in Burma. After the war was over, he came back to Memphis and met my mother in 1946 when they married. In 1950, after he had finished Officers Training School (OTS) and his college degree at Memphis State University, he was called into to the Korean War where he served for a year in combat in artillery with his National Guard Unit from Memphis and earned the "Bronze Star Medal" for bravery.
After the Korean War, he lived his life out in Memphis and North Mississippi working as a professional accountant and bookkeeper. He continued to serve in the Memphis National Guard where he retired after 27 years of duty. Prior to his retirement in the guard, in 1968, two U.S. Marshals, showed up at our house on Rolling Oaks Drive in East Memphis, to notify him that his guard unit was being activated to protect the City of Memphis during the Martin Lutheran King riots. My mother took my brother and me to Arkansas to escape the violence. She was afraid the rioting would reach East Memphis. But it never did. It was contained to Downtown Memphis, thanks to my father and his unit and the Memphis police.
In 1974, after 27 years of marriage and five children with my mother, my parents divorced. Being the youngest, I was devastated. However, I survived it like most children of divorce do. My father suffered from "Battle Fatigue." Nowadays, they call it "Post Traumatic Stress Disorder." (PTSD). But health professionals back then did not recognize it, the way they do these days. The medical community knows how to treat the condition now. However, my father's philosophy and in dealing with his problems was "You work hard and you play hard." He never did quit working hard or playing hard. Thank you, dad, for serving our country and being a decent human being.

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