Dave Moller: A sense of pride not diminished by fear
The fear is not as bad now as it once was, because I know on this Father’s Day that my son Ben Moller is serving in an American military enclave in Iraq that is far from all the danger we see.
But for the first five months before we knew exactly where he was going, my entire family suffered from what others with children in a war zone know all about – a gripping fear in the gut.
It’s hard to eat and virtually impossible to shake when it comes, manifesting itself in bizarre scenarios your brain conjures up. You have to rid your head of them immediately, or they can virtually paralyze you.
When I chatted with farmer and Nevada Irrigation District Director John Drew about his son’s recent service in Iraq, he referred to the fear as a pit in the stomach and pointed to the same spot where mine still sporadically hits.
When I interviewed Nevada County District Attorney Investigator John Casci about how he was handling his son’s Iraqi service, he described the stomach fear like the feeling you get after a bad cup of coffee.
I knew the instant Ben told me he was going to be a U.S. Navy Corpsmen three years ago that he would end up in Iraq with the Marines. But I accepted his decision when he explained he did not want to go to college right away after graduating from Nevada Union, because he would simply flunk out.
Ben said he wanted to see the world and build up a college nest egg in case the medical field did not appeal to him.
The fear was beginning, but I was infinitely proud of his candor and maturity at the age of 18, just between his junior and senior years in high school. As a Vietnam vet friend I grew up with said later, his mother and I must have done something right when we raised him.
But I don’t think I’ll ever forget Ben’s 2 a.m. phone call last November to tell me of his orders for Iraq.
I brought a lot of personal baggage to that phone call, but I managed to keep my chin up for Ben in the middle of the night, promising positive thoughts that only leave occasionally now when the fear takes over.
When I hung up, I realized that in life anything can happen, like the time he and his buddies smacked into a tree head-on at 60 mph after school one day but all survived.
Also, my cousin Clipper’s name is on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall, which exacerbates this whole thing and makes it more complex with the inevitable comparisons. I also know a lot of Vietnam vets and about the “second hell” they went through when they came home, although it looks like my generation is not allowing that to happen this time.
So like many fathers today, I simply have to live with this part of parenthood, which I did not foresee. It makes it easier when I realize Ben is following his mother and great uncle’s service in the U.S. Navy, fulfilling what has become a family legacy of pride.
I didn’t serve in Vietnam, which was a full, three-family Moller decision made after Clipper came back in 1968 inside a metal casket. I got sent to college the next year instead, where like Ben, I didn’t belong at the time.
So the fear for me is a bit more poignant and personal, but it’s getting better, with the notable exception of a recent breakdown where I couldn’t turn the tears off. But the pride is also there and that’s what gets me through the tough days.
Ben turned 21 on June 9 in Iraq, and he’s about to get a little time off in Qatar. I’m looking forward to future Father’s Days, when he’s home safe, and some year, celebrating his own fatherhood. I already know he’s going to be a good one.
To contact Senior Staff Writer Dave Moller, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 477-4237.
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