Today I Mourn My Dad


This morning I hear emergency vehicles in the neighborhood. I didn’t know if I should hope that whoever it is gets there on time or fear for the worse. Should I fear America because I’m black?

Today I mourn my dad more so today than any other day; not because he’s dead [14 years ago], but he was misunderstood by many because of his color. He was raised in Rome, GA and Birmingham, AL during segregation and the civil rights movement. He graduated from Rome Colored High School. There were 2 high schools in Rome—one for the whites and one for the blacks.

After high school a white man told my dad that he would pay for his college education. Was this man trying to make a difference in my dad’s life? Nonetheless, my dad declined the offer cause he had too much pride. It took my dad over 20 years to get his degree because he took classes while he was in the military.

Today I mourn my dad because he served this country and people would still talk down to him. My dad told me when he was stationed in England, an Englishman asked where was his tail? Even though he was dressed in uniform they still saw him as a…black man, to put it mildly. I’m sure it took a lot for my dad to restrain himself.

I spoke to my dad about Stone Mountain Park. His memory of Stone Mountain was not a good one. He told me one day in the military, he was riding on a bus passing Stone Mountain. On the mountain he saw a cross burning and it gave him chills. I can’t even imagine what that would be like being a male black American.

My dad served in the Korean War and the Vietnam War fighting against communism while a war waged at home in the U.S. of A. Vietnam veterans never received a “thank you” for serving our country; it was just business as usual. No one clapped at the airports for our military. Thank you, flower children for your make love not war statement; a lot of good that did us. The war may have ended overseas but the war raged in my dad’s head.

After he got out of the military after 20 years (because the military was ready to send my dad back to Vietnam), he got a job as a correctional officer. It was a very life threatening job – again. When he got laid off from that job he became a parole officer chasing down bad guys that didn’t want to come in and report to him. Although he had a degree in accounting no one wanted to hire him so he got a job with the state of NY. He said he was passed up for accounting jobs because of his color. Yeah, I know, he couldn’t prove that this was the reason. But there were some people that were so blatant about it. Dad told me that his car insurance (I believe it was car insurance) was dropped for no reason. So he went into the office to find out why. The woman said it was because of his color. You can believe he made a stink about that and he got his insurance back!

He served NY state for 20 plus years as well and he always carried a gun wherever he went; whether he was on duty or not. He was also a sharpshooter. He was part of the gun club in his community and competed for as long as he was able to stand on his two feet. As he got older diabetes got the best of him and it was hard for him to shoot a gun. He took me shooting at the range once hoping that we could share this moment at his gun club. But I didn’t take any interest in shooting. Now I wish I had.

No matter what time of the day it was, if something happened to me, my dad would be there. He was the one person I can always rely on whether I asked for it or not.

My mom was the last of the my parents to die and I was the one who ended up cleaning out their house. I saw my dad’s trophies, plaques, and certificate of when he was in the military and the gun club. When my mom died she had to get rid of all his guns that he hid around the house. He built book shelves that had compartments where he hid them. No one knew about these hiding places. I gave my cousin his riffle, because I was afraid of keeping it cause I had to fly back home. It was so old that it wasn’t registered. That riffle was my grandmother’s (my dad’s mother). My grandmother showed him how to shoot with that rifle. The first time he used it he fell back because he wasn’t holding it properly. Then my dad showed me how to shoot with that gun. I wished I had kept the gun because of its history. I hope my cousin kept the gun.

I always felt safe as a child cause my dad was always there for me. It wasn’t because of his guns. He was a great guy and I looked up to him. I’ve been reading so many things about police officers and men that lost their lives senselessly; I cried today for those people. I cried today because my dad carried a gun and it could have been him who died senselessly. I cried today because my dad served his country and he didn’t get the respect he deserved. I cried today because my dad was a parole officer and he put his life on the line everyday.

The one thing I never heard my father express his disgust, anger or hatred about how people have treated him. He told me the facts nothing more, nothing less. I see so much anger on social media, but this anger doesn’t produce any positive results either.

May peace be with you Dad; you’ve done a good job as a father and a citizen. I wish you were still here so I can tell you how much I love you and how proud I am of you.

Master Sergeant Willie Lee Townsend
Master Sergeant Willie Lee Townsend

 

 

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Today I Mourn My Dad

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