My birth father is the kind of veteran that people make movies about. He was a member of the Delta Force unit that attempted to rescue the American hostages held in Iran in 1980. The operation was called Eagle Claw.
I found my birth mother 20+ years ago, and my birth father several years later. I wrote him a letter, and he called me. He was suspect of my motives, and tested my birth and search story many times, asking questions about circumstances that only I (or my birth mother) would be able to answer.
After proving my identity, our telephone conversations relaxed into the banter of getting to know each other. I asked him what he did for a living. His replies were more impressive than any of the fatherly fairy tales I made up during my search.
My birth father told me that he was retired military. He shared that he was hand-picked to be a member of the Delta Force. At the time of our reunion, I had no idea what the Special Forces were. I did not understand the unimaginable level of physical endurance and training required to be a member of Delta Force.
Over the course of many conversations, my birth father shared with me his experience of standing with the hostages in Iran, and watching as one of the helicopters collided with a transport plane loaded with fuel. Upon witnessing the collision and subsequent explosion he said, “There goes our ride.” The hostages were eventually freed, and my birth father was one of several Delta members who met privately with President Carter in the aftermath.
The adventures and heroism of my biological father’s stories grew as he felt more comfortable with his newfound daughter. As a writer, I was ravenous for details. Despite my reporter-like questions, he told every story with frustrating vagueness. Secrecy is the Delta way. Loose lips, even decades after these Delta missions, have the power to sink ships.
When I found my birth father after thirteen years of searching, and told my husband about our telephone conversations, he suggested that I not get my hopes up for the stories to be true. He said, “You don’t know him yet. It could be made up. I mean what are the odds that you’d find a superhero?”
Well, in terms of military service, I did find a superhero. My birth father served in Vietnam, did a multi-year stint in the Delta Force, and stayed in the military for thirty-years. When I met him, he gave me the awards he earned in Delta. I was the only one (of his three children) who wanted them. I never met his other children, but that’s a blog for another day.
Like many adoption reunions, ours did not survive the honeymoon stage. A life of military service turned my Delta Dad into a steely being, who finds subterfuge and ulterior motives in everyone he encounters, including me. Military service is hard, and there is no escape from the psychological alterations it leaves behind.
I will not go into the details of how our reunion crashed, but will say that I am still happy to have known him. While we may never see eye-to-eye, he gave me a deeper understanding of the might of our military. Meeting him also revealed the source of my my strong-headed determination. I often think that had I been cast from any other biological source, I would not have survived my tumultuous childhood.
As the biological child of a gosh-darn, real-life military hero, on this Veteran’s day, I salute all of our veteran heroes, and their families.
Blessings for healing of all war-wounds,
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