In Remembrance of My Favorite Veteran (Father of My Favorite Farmer)

May 31, 2010 | 14 comments

The hospice nurse’s shift was nearly over, and she wanted to say goodbye. She leaned over my father-in-law’s bed, in his last hours, while his eyes were closed and his heart was slowing.

They say the hearing is the last thing to go, so I believe he heard her what she spoke into his ear: “If I don’t see you tomorrow, Paul, I just want you to know how much I appreciate your service to our country. Thank you, Paul, for all you’ve done.”

The nurse gave my father-in-law the gift of spoken words — the sort of thank-you that I never spoke aloud in his ear. She gave him heartfelt, audible thanks for his service.

Today is Memorial Day, when we honor the sacrifice of the soldier. Forty years after Paul served in Vietnam, my father-in-law was a casualty of war. He was exposed to Agent Orange, which led to lymphoma, and later leukemia. He died Jan. 21, 2009.

Even though I didn’t tell him in person, I know my father-in-law knew how much I appreciated what he’d done. (But I still wish I’d told him so out loud …)

I am reprinting a post today that I wrote on Veteran’s Day 2008, and Memorial Day 2009. It was my way of saying thank you in a way that I have always felt more comfortable: with the written word. I know that Paul read this one, just a couple months before he died. And I am grateful for that.

November, 11, 2008 — He’s a man of honor and quiet strength. He doesn’t talk much about his years in Vietnam. God got him through, he tells us, and that alone is really all we need to know.

He’s a fighter, this man, my favorite veteran.

Like most veterans I know, he has never lost the desire to serve his country. He’s not fighting wars anymore, but he’s still looking for ways to serve, to make a contribution. To provide leadership, set a good example, and show what it means to work hard, serve country, and honor God.

Yet, beneath the tough exterior of an old soldier, he’s a soft-hearted Grandpa who my girls call “Bop.” You should see how this old soldier plays with those little girls. The rough hands of a farmer and a fighter reach out wide to hug his grandchildren, to grasp a crayon, to play dolls or hold teacups.

Oh, how he loves them. And oh, how we love him back.

On the farm CB radio, just now, as I write this tribute to my favorite veteran, his wife’s voice crackles over the speaker. She wants us to know they’re about ready to take the roads to the hospital. Her husband is fighting another battle these days — leukemia — and he has a scheduled chemo treatment today.

On this day, Paul, as you fight this battle, we honor you and all of the nation’s military veterans — men and women of exceptional courage and strength. God bless you for how you’ve fought old wars … and for the way you teach us new lessons in the battles you face now.

We are the home of the free … because of brave souls like you.


May this Memorial Day be more than “another day off” for all of us. May it be a time to remember, and to offer audible thanks. (And Bop! We wore poppies for you today!)

PHOTO: This morning’s Memorial Day celebration in Longville, Minnesota.

by | May 31, 2010 | 14 comments


  1. A Simple Country Girl

    I agree wholeheartedly, we are free because of men and women like your Bop. The integrity and honor of our veterans is tangible… We just have to reach out with thankful hands.


  2. Karen

    What a beautiful tribute…

    Audible thanks…I need to use more of those, too….

  3. Sara

    Delightful as always to remember with you. Simply beautiful, simply today.


  4. Stephani

    Tears and pride as I read your post.

  5. ~*Michelle*~

    Thank you for the reminder of what Memorial Day is truly about.

    Thank you for sharing this beautiful tribute of this special person in your life.


  6. Michelle

    Thank you for sharing.
    My dad died January 2010.
    The last time I saw him we danced together. I did not get a chance to see him so sickly. Looking back, I believe he would rather me remember when he was healthy.

  7. Shirl

    Honey, you have left me speechless.

  8. Deidra

    I remember reading this one before…before I actually met you and your family and Paul's wife. It was a great read when I read it the first time – a wonderfully beautiful tribute. It is such a gentle, heartfelt expression of love as I read it this time around.

  9. Lyla Lindquist

    This one got me before, gets me now. These guys, their lives. Where would we be…

    Thanks for honoring Paul again.

  10. Bina

    As the daughter of one who has served our Armed Forces…as the military brat who had to move in the middle of a school year to a new post…as the girl who remembers the impressions left by those who walked around in uniform…as the woman who now understands what my childish mind could not…I praise God for each and every soul willing to serve.

    Beautiful tribute, Miss Jennifer 🙂

  11. Runner Mom

    Jennifer, I loved this post the first time I read it, and now, even more! Thank you sweet friend for sharing it. And, for sharing your faith!

  12. Beth E.

    What a wonderful post. Just reading it today, but I am so thankful to Paul and all other military men and women who have given their all for our country.

  13. Jennifer

    Thanking God for men like Paul.

  14. Lynda Young

    What a precious tribute to be able to give.

    Many blessings to you,


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