Each year, July 4th brings a joyful remembrance of the love, relationship, and good times enjoyed with my father, Bob. He was raised during the Depression, when going without was commonplace. He was a friend of anyone who knew him and exemplified thankfulness and gratitude for all we enjoy as Americans.
This July 4th has special meaning as it is the 70th anniversary of my father joining the Army Air Corps to fight in WWII. He epitomized the best of the “Greatest Generation”, fighting bravely from the cockpit of a P-51 Mustang in the Asian Theater. His courage and confidence in the rightness of his cause brings me pride as a son and as an American. He laid his life on the line to fight the evil of his day.
Bob Hammond grew up in 1930’s poverty. He completed two years at Morningside College before enlisting after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. He left the cornfields of Iowa and climbed into the cockpit of a P-51 and began his fight for what he believed was the greatest government ever conceived by man—our American Democracy.
Although he drank and battled alcoholism for 30 years after the Great Conflict, he was, in the end, able to get and stay sober (for another 33 years) and make sense of the whole affair. We were at the Arizona Monument in Pearl Harbor in 1995–in a quiet moment I asked him if he was doing OK. He quietly replied, “I fought against the government of the grandparents of these (Japanese) tourists.” He had done the math and knew that he had won, healed, and moved on. This is the mark of a real warrior. This was some of the legacy of my father. His friend once eulogized:
To my friend and brother Bob Hammond:
“Proudly I call you my brother. Our lives were mirrored in so many ways that our paths were entwined forever…
Born of humble circumstance in Iowa, raised by a saintly mother, forged by the Depression, you were a gifted athlete, literally fighting for an education and some wisdom.
Through the Great Conflict, where the wild blue yonder became close up deadly and dirty, you and I lived, suffered losses, made mistakes, played thousands of card games, fought, drank to excess, and selfishly survived.
Well, it was about time when we made the long-awaited changes… and with those changes came sobriety, self-respect, and most importantly love of family, those of goodwill, coupled with a great love for Christ.
He takes you into his arms. Go lovingly compadre’. So long; I will miss you. Keep the light on for me…”
I am realizing that the pain of missing a loved one transforms with time. Each July 4th our family will relish the memory my dad–-one of the Greatest Generation. He was a patriot-warrior, friend, and an awesome father who impacted many lives with his love for God, people, and his country.