On the way out of church this morning, I was fighting back the tears, and actually began crying before I could get out of everyone’s sight. I just couldn’t help it. It is Veteran’s Day, and my Dad was a career military man, the most patriotic man I ever met. If you have read about Cornelius, the Centurion in Acts chapter 10, I have heard my dad compared to Cornelius so many times!! Cornelius was an extremely good man!! Very few people can come as close to being called as good as Cornelius, a very good military man, but I have heard many people compare my dad to Cornelius.
My dad was TDY when I was born. That means he was away on temporary military assignment. All the time I was growing up, he was Sergeant Parks, a man that everyone respected and loved. He taught me to stand when I saw the American flag in respect. He taught me to stand when I heard the national anthem played. If I was walking somewhere, and the national anthem played or someone was raising a flag, I was expected to stop for as long as that anthem was being played or until the flag was raised. I was taught to put my hand on my heart. I have seen my dad salute so many times!! He was truly dedicated to serving America and helping in whatever way he could all around the globe. He was American, and he represented America to other countries well. His hands were open to help, no matter what country you came from. He tried to protect everyone. He tried to teach everyone. He tried to help everyone. He was always up to volunteer. He wanted the tough assignments. He believed in doing things right. He always said, “Something isn’t worth doing, if you don’t do it right.” When he passed away, he was buried with full military honors.
This morning at church, they wanted to honor the people who had served in the military. First, they asked everyone who had served to get up and walk to the back of the auditorium. I never signed up to be in the military, but until I graduated from high school, it was my life. At times, I almost feel like I was in the military too because everything in my life was influenced by my dad being in the military. I was raised half in other countries because of the military.
I was introduced to foreign language much earlier than other Americans because my dad worked out of an embassy in Morocco teaching electricity to Arabs in Arabic, and I went to the embassy school where they taught us French. The Arabas were amazed at my dad speaking Arabic, so called him Sergeant Diablo. My real introduction to Christianity was not through the local church like it is for so many people, but by a missionary who had been sent from England to Morocco.
Just since I have been here in Oklahoma, there has still been talk about “an American with a British accent.” Yes, that was me. My dad being in the military made me odd and different from other American kids. When my cousins were learning to ride horses, I had seen horses on TV in England. In Morocco, we had no TV, but I was listening to the Arab maid sing love songs as she ironed our clothes in Arabic. My little brother was speaking Arabic like an Arab, and my dad was telling me stories in Arabic.
When we returned to the States, I went to school six months here, and a year there. We were constantly moving. I was very shy. I didn’t understand the other American kids at all. Sometimes we were lucky, and we played with kids at one place whose dad was in the military, and when we were transferred, their dad was transferred too, and we were overjoyed to remain friends with them. For many years, I had never shopped at a regular grocery story, only the BX or little local shops where I bought candy in England or Morocco. For many years, the only theater I had been to was at the American Club in Morocco, an Arab place that catered to Americans that had a restaurant where we ate sishkabab and warm French style bread, a hotel, a theater, and a shop full of Fatima dolls, small stuffed leather camels, and leather hassocks. For a while, we lived in the Riz hotel and ate every meal at the American Club.
When my dad went to Thailand during the Vietnam war, I was in high school, and I was changing so much, I didn’t know how to relate to him when he got back. He always came home dressed in his uniform with a suitcase full of gifts. That time, he brought back wooded elephants and some of those round oriental hats that came to a point on top like they wear in the fields in the orient. I didn’t know how to hug anyone, and when he arrived back from Thailand my older sister ran up and grabbed him and hugged him, but I understood so little and was so shy that I couldn’t be as aggressive as she was, so I didn’t get a hug. My dad’s military career really effected who I was!!
In many ways, it has effected my whole life. I quote my dad often. Yes, he was strict, but he was right. He used to pull inspection on my room, and I had to have not only the bed made, everything picked up, and the floor swept, but my shoes had to be arranged right in the bottom of the closet too. I had to stand at attention at the end of my bed. He told us he was easier on us than he was on the guys in the barracks. I taught my own kids to clean their rooms, but I never pulled inspection. I provided things to make it easier for them to clean their rooms. Their dad would talk about me and tell me that I was Sergeant Parks, but I wasn’t as strict as my dad. However, his strictness influences me and my kids even now. My daughter often quotes his saying about if something is worth doing, it is worth doing it right.
My dad was larger than life, and his shadow is still here. When he was an old man, he and I used to get together just to speak Spanish together. He wanted my Spanish Bible, and I gave it to him. I was so happy to spend time with him! When they played the national anthem and all the other patriotic songs at the end of worship services at church this morning and put the flag up on the screen in front, I wanted to stand just as my dad taught me. However, no one was standing, and I didn’t want to make a spectacle of myself. When I went out, they expected us to talk to all the guys who had been in the military they had standing at the back. I talked to them. I shook their hands, but I ended up crying and having to leave. They were all military men and women. I hope they all represented America as well as my dad did. I pray they are all like Cornelius because I know my dad was.
” At Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion in what was known as the Italian Regiment. He and all his family were devout and God-fearing; he gave generously to those in need and prayed to God regularly” (Acts 10:1 &2).