Gold Star Dad

The thoughts of a father who has lost a son to war

Grandma called him “Pete”

Posted by fozzynok on 08/03/2009

Micheal Eugene Phillips was the first born of one of millions of American families on 17 May, 1988. He was born to an eagerly awaiting young married couple who had planned and anticipated this moment for the time before they were even married. He was the first grandchild of my family and my mother was almost insane with joy over his arrival. He was cherished by his family and he was the perfect baby who arrived at the perfect time in our perfect little world. How things and times have changed.

Micheal was born in the wee hours of the morning in Vallejo California. He was and will always be more of a California kid than a kid anywhere else that we have tried to stick down roots. He was born a blonde haired blue eyed perfect little creature to a father who was too proud to put into words to have him.  I welcomed him into this world, a few moments after he was born, I took him into my arms, looked him in the eyes (that were full of that goopy stuff) and walked to the window away from the busy crew helping my wife and talked to him promised him many things as a father and as a man.

I have had quite a few things to be happy about in my life and a few things that like most other men, things to be frankly less that proud of. The extended family dieing, dwindling, and infighting and things were just not going as well as I thought they could be, so a few wild attempts at finding greener grass and starting fresh were what we embarked on. In hindsight, it was rather foolish and I’ll surely regret it till my dieing day. All the time I have wasted and all the trials of moving a family around in search of a place to raise them in a better environment just never seemed to completely pan out. Micheal through all of these moves faired better than any of us I feel. Micheal could be at home anywhere.

Micheal was a very happy kid and had the “travelin bone” from very early on. I was a truck driver for most of his life and when I could, he would go out with me on the truck and we spent a lot of time just enjoying running up and down the road seeing people’ places and things. One of my last trips ever in an “over the road” truck, Micheal was along during a summer vacation break. I lucked out and got a trip to California and then out to drop off a load of general freight at Ft Reily, Kansas. It was so nice to get out to California and see where we were and will forever be “from”. The produce was running up and down the valley and the aroma from all of the truck loads of peaches made the normally sickening smelling truck stops smell wonderful.

We did the whole truck driver thing for two weeks, we joked and played playstation, took walks around the areas we stayed at for the night or when waiting for loads. Ate truck stop breakfast and in general, it was one of the best truck trips that I’d ever had. For me it would be my last over the road trip, it was a great last trip for both of us.  Micheal was growing up and as most young men do, away from us as parents and finding his own way. He was a bit lazy in school and rambunctious out of it. He had friends that were good for him and some that were bad. He was he normal American kid, doing what normal American kids do.

Micheal was always military minded and loved history. He had a gift for retaining historical fact and had the family trait of not allowing revision where it should not be.  He played some Football, but was never an outstanding player; he was there to support the team and to belong to a team that supported him. He never lost that. He hated bullies and went out of his way to harass them and to get the smaller, weaker and just different kids out of the line of fire and accepted the problems that this sometimes brings. He accepted people for what they are and that was that.

My son wanted to join the military, he did the same things that I did in that process. He took the ASVAB and scored well enough to basically name his own job. He chose of course the Infantry. There are many reasons not to join the infantry, and there are few reasons to actually join when you do not have too. Infantry work is very interesting and more complex than anyone but those who have worked the trade will ever understand. These are reasons that most people cannot and will not understand why these men go. Historically, it is the “boots on the ground” that change history. He also understood what was happening to the people in the middle-east and he wanted to help them and protect this country from the things that were happening over there.

We signed Micheal up into the “Delayed Entry Program” on his insistence. This is what he wanted to do and it was never a bad thing. I did talk to him seriously about the inherent problems and very real dangers of the infantry. I talked to him once about this and that’s all I need to see that he was doing this for the right reasons. He accepted the risks in a time of war, which makes him a very special person in my book. The recruiters were all veterans of this current war and have seen some of the worst of it. They talked to Micheal and on the signing date, took the pen from his hand, and looked him in the eyes at guaranteed him that as an infantryman he would be going to combat in either Afghanistan or Iraq. He signed on the dotted lines and accepted his risks. I was very proud of him, but of course, kind of sick in the dark recesses of my soul.

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2 Responses to “Grandma called him “Pete””

  1. Wanita Panza said

    May his memory be blessed Steven.

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