Freedom isn’t FREE

03.07.17

For anyone who hasn’t read or for folks asking to read it again . . . I’m sharing an older blog post about why the 4th is so special to me!

As the country celebrates our country’s Independence Day tomorrow, I wanted to share a script I wrote for a video interview. I was asked, years ago by my church, to do a video about losing my father, to be used in a July 4th service. Having never done anything like that, I didn’t know where to start. So . . . I just sat down at my computer and this is what came out . . .

Daddy 1

My father . . . . . William “Wild Bill” Henry Cox, Jr. He got the nick-name “Wild Bill” after he went into the Air Force. He loved to fly. In fact, I just recently found out that after he and my mother started dating in Columbus Mississippi, where my mother grew up, he rented a plane one day to fly to Memphis, Tennessee for an ice cream cone. It was in Columbus, Mississippi where my mom and dad met. He was stationed at the Air Training Command base there.

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They were married on the day my father got his wings, June 1, 1955. I came along 11 months later, born while they were stationed in San Angelo, Texas. In the military, as you know you don’t stay in one place long, and when I was still a baby, we moved to Sacramento, California where my brother was born when I was two. I have some memories of California, the little culdesac we lived in, the matching outfits my mom would make for my neighbor and I, and much to my mom’s surprise, bringing the postman in one day to see my new baby brother sleeping in his bassinet.

Daddy 3

After California, we were headed for Godmanchester, England. This is where I remember so vividly the missions my father would fly and come home bringing little trinkets for my brother and I. No matter where a mission would take him, or what time frame he had while he was on a flight, he would manage to pick up something. Sometimes it would only be a roll of life savers or a pack of gum other times I knew he had spent time picking up just the toy he knew we would love. Daddy knew that part of the excitement of “Daddy’s Home” was the whole ritual of getting into his B-4 bag in all the compartments they have to find out what our little serci (surprise) was going to be. Or, us squealing when he came in the door: Daddy, get out of your flight suit and he would so he could put us both inside, zip it up and drag us around the house by the sleeves!! He flew a lot, he was gone a lot. We would have the great send-offs, coloring pictures for him while he was gone, Mommy having to endure the endless “when is Daddy coming home?”. Then to have the same celebration in reverse . . . . Daddy’s Home!!!!!

daddy

My mom was totally involved in all aspects of being an officer’s wife. When daddy was flying she was immersed in taking care of my brother and I and being a part of all the support activities of being in the military. When daddy was home, they were always entertaining squadron friends, traveling, attending commander receptions, bridge clubs . . . . .doing life.

It was our life: the Air Force, the military. It was what we did, how we did life! Even though Daddy was gone so much we never imagined the possibility of him not coming home after a mission.

The knock on our door came early on the morning of February 4, 1963. My father had been killed when his plane crashed in Oklahoma on a routine mission to the United States. Just as a captain of a ship waits until everyone is off the ship before he abandons, Daddy had waited until everyone had ejected after one of the engines had blown, and they say he must have had his finger on the ejection button when the plane crashed. I remember the day like it was yesterday. You hear folks talking about something happening and going in slow motion, this was my slow motion day. Details of that day are etched so deep in my mind. Almost instantly our house was filled with people. I was going to go on to school (not knowing yet what had happened) until things calmed down. I specifically remember someone else having to fix my hair that morning beside my mom. I remember the color of the rubber band she used to match the red plaid dress I was going to wear that day. Later that day, a neighbor, Mrs. Feidor came for me at school. She said I was going to get to go to her house where Ronnie (my brother) was playing. At 6 ½, you say OKAY! We even went to a neighborhood birthday party that afternoon. But then Mrs. Feidor walked us across the street back to our house where my mother was waiting, in my parents bedroom, to tell us what had happened. That daddy was gone, he would not be coming home. After those few days it was a whirlwind. Going back to the states, the day of my father’s funeral, moving back to my mom’s hometown in Mississippi.

54 years ago this year was the anniversary of his death. My mother never remarried. She still has this picture of Daddy on her dresser. He was the love of her life, she beams to this day when she talks about their life together. They had so much fun, so much love, so much life. She’s told me so many stories about Daddy as a husband, a father, a friend, a patriot. He loved his country . . . . he died serving his country. So many people have asked me the question: Debra, why would you marry someone in the Air Force, someone who flies? Just as my mother had, I fell in love, head over heels. The fact that Buddy was in the Air Force was a part of who he is.

Daddy 2

So much lost. I have a pictures, none of me with my dad, though. I have the letter from President John Kennedy to my mother after his death. His high school year book, awards and certificates. So much lost . . . .My high school graduation, my brother’s graduation , our weddings… I walked down the aisle on my wedding day alone, not out of sorrow but more out of honor….. he has missed the birth of our children and grandchildren. I have a framed picture in my living room of my dad when he was about four or five and folks coming into our home have asked where did I get such a beautiful, old, sepia tone picture of my son. They can’t believe it when I tell them it’s of my father. Ryan, our 31 year-old son, looks just like my father’s pictures as a child. It is uncanny. I have such an ache for my children to have known my father.

So many junctures and events in my life that have a place where he should have been. I think that’s why I’ve always loved hearing or reading stories about people’s dads. Tell me what it was like, tell me about your relationship with your dad . . . Give me a picture of how it may have been. I told a good friend not long after her father died, that she had given me such a window to look through of what a true father/daughter relationship was meant to be. She has wonderful stories of she and her dad’s relationship. I would and still do hang on every word when she’s sharing about him.

Years ago, I participated in our annual Father/Daughter Banquet here at our church as a server. I wanted to have a sense of what it would have been like. It was hard, I shed some tears that no one knew about, but watching those little girls, all dressed up, looking up into their father’s eyes with such love . . . was so precious. I’ll never forget it. The stories, the pictures, the dreams of what could have been . . .. I know these are all things that God has used in helping me to establish a right “little girl” relationship with Him. It was very hard for me after becoming a Christian years ago, to try and comprehend God loving me as my heavenly Father. I had no model, no gridwork to go from. What was that unconditional “Daddy” love supposed to be like?

It’s been an incredible journey. And here I am, anticipating another 4th of July as I have been on so many 4th’s before . . . thinking about what the 4th of July means to me, really means to me. Sure, I’m planning a big day at the pool, red, white and blue balloons, red tablecloths, fireworks, ribbons and streamers… . . . . I get teased about being a “flag-waving, card carrying, patriotic American! I even have a special Christmas tree I do that has all antique flags, red, white and blue garland and banners on it!……………. Why? . . . . . America is so precious to me . . . . I love my country . . .it cost me so much . . . . My father died serving this country. The rhyme and reason of his death???? The price he paid for freedom. The price countless others have paid with their time, their service . . . their lives. I anticipate our 4th of July services every year … to celebrate. I want the hoopla, the fireworks, the flags   . . . . . .my family and I paid a high cost for freedom. I will celebrate, I love to celebrate …………….because freedom is worth celebrating!

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