Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Independence Keepers - It's All In The Family

As we approach our countries annual celebration of "Independence Day" (the 4th of July), I would like to give a "shout out" to my father, Donald Eugene Rogers Sr., who has dedicated his life to the freedom of this America and continues to support the troops who fight for this great country of ours.  He supports the troops, so much so that he formed his own "troop", if you will, as a father of three children who all served this country and proudly followed in his footsteps.

Today, it brought tears to my eyes as I opened an unexpected card from him thanking me and my son for taking him to see the grand canyon which is something he had always wanted to see but never had the opportunity.  He not only had never had the opportunity to see one of the worlds greatest wonders but up until that point, from June 4-10, 2013, he had never really been able to go on a real vacation.  The reason is because he always gave his vacations over the years to his country serving his annual two weeks on active duty.  It was an honor and privilege to take him to Arizona to see his brother, nieces and nephews that he had not seen in decades (since they drove to see us).  I will always cherish the time we shared as will my son Adam.

While visiting the family, he pulled out his pictures to share and while the photos are rather aged, he is most proud of these pictures because they show everyone how all three of his kids served the country.  The photos are all laminated.  As one of those kids, I can't help but feel honored that your father is proud of you even if that accomplishment is not necessarily one that I am personally most proud of in my life.  The fact that he is proud and he takes those photos with him everywhere he goes and most likely shows anyone he can is touching to say the least.

I took the photo to the left here before he put them all back very neatly in his wallet with the intent to eventually write this blog to honor him.  He doesn't realize how much he is honoring us each time he pulls them out.  The photos he is holding from left to right are in order of age and when we went into the service.  I was the oldest and the first to join the Illinois Air National Guard serving 6 years.  My brother Donald Eugene Rogers, Jr. served not quite as long as my dad but definitely long enough to earn a retirement from the Air Force as an active duty safety specialist just last March.  He has moved to Nashville, TN and now works for a private employer.  My youngest brother Ernest Nelson Rogers served four years active duty on the flight lines at Shaw AFB, SC.  He lives in Rembert, SC now with his two boys and occasionally has an opportunity to appear in big screen movies such as, my favorite, Dear John.  While we all don't see each other much we still keep in touch and most often to check up on the status of my fathers condition.

You see, my father, is a four and a half year cancer survivor who against all odds has been able to stay alive primarily because of his almost three decades of military service.  Upon his honorable discharge (which all of us have earned by the way) he retired with full TriCare coverage.  Without that he would not be able to pay for the nearly $6,000 a month in meds (one of which is a chemo pill) that is keeping him going.  Sure he had his moments of not knowing when the good lord was going to take him (and still doesn't) to include days of intravenous chemotherapy, radiation, blood transfusions, etc.  However, after being initially diagnosed with lung cancer in February of 2009 and then brain cancer in February of 2011, we are all so grateful he is still here.

This final picture is one that his niece shared with us on our trip to Arizona of dad being honored with a medal in the Marines.  After his active duty service he later joined the Illinois Air National Guard retiring as a Technical Sergeant.  When I joined I had to work with my dad on the same base  and as the safety inspector once had to ask him to put his seatbelt on.  He also made sure the young airmen kept their distance.  The most memorable moment during our service together was the drive to summer camp in Biloxi, MS where I had to spend the night in the car to save hotel costs.  I don't remember sleeping much that night as I was a bit scared of who might come knocking on the window.  All in all, I was and still am, as are my brothers, proud to carry on the torch of honoring independence.

So thank you dad for your effort in maintaining our country's independence and your willingness to not give up on a good fight (including that damn cancer fight you're currently in)!  You make us proud to be your children! We love you forever and ever!

Happy 4th of July to all and thank you to a service member who is or has ever served America!

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