Long ago when I was just a little girl, I led a charmed life. I had a Mommy, a Daddy, a baby brother and I was surrounded by grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins.
Life was good, I was my Daddy's princess and life was pretty perfect.
One day Daddy had to go far away to work somewhere called Vietnam. Daddy told me to be a good girl and listen to my Mommy and he told my brother he was the man of the house and he needed to take care of me and Mommy. Daddy was silly, my brother was just a baby!
Daddy wrote us letters, lots of letters. I learned to count by counting the X's and O's on the bottom of his letters. I didn’t' like when Daddy sent Mommy more hugs and kisses than he sent me. After all, I was the princess not Mommy!
Daddy was gone a long time and then he came home for a short visit. I was very sad when Daddy had to leave again, I missed my Daddy but he promised he would be home as soon as he could.
My father, John Mitchell Dudley Sr was 20 years old when he was killed in Vietnam. Before I knew what war was, I had lost my father to one. I was three, my brother was almost two and my sister was still waiting to be born. My mother was a widow at 21 left with three small kids to raise.
My father was a child himself when he was killed. He died alone, in a foreign country, so far away from the people he loved.
I believe I live in the greatest country in the world and I know the price of freedom. My father paid the ultimate price but those of us left behind paid a price too. There are so many things I will never get to share with my father, so many things he's missed. The really devastating part is that every day my story becomes another child's story.
Today and every day, thank a veteran. Whether or not your agree with our country's decisions know that these men and women are standing up for us. The president may be the commander in chief but these soldiers don't go to war to protect him, they go to war to protect the people they love, to stand up for a country they believe in and to make the world a safer place for all of us.
To everyone who serves, has ever served, or will ever serve, thank you, words cannot express the gratitude I feel.. To my Daddy, thank you, but I really wish you had just stayed home.