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It would be nice to call my father this Sunday

His Bronze Star and commendation are framed and hanging on the wall of my living room along with a picture of a young man in a football uniform; another photo of him in an Army uniform sits in a frame against the wall waiting to be hung.

My father died 35 years ago, but in my mind he is still very much alive, especially on Father’s Day.

Dad was a child of the Depression and a member of what has been called “The Greatest Generation” that went overseas to fight fascism and save the world from the clutches of a fanatical dictator. He served as a combat medic in World War II, a member of a combat engineer battalion that made three of the six major amphibious landings in the European Theater — North Africa, Sicily and Normandy.

Like many veterans, Dad never talked about his experiences in combat, and that peaked my interest in World War II, especially in Europe, where Dad’s unit fought.

He was an outstanding athlete in high school and junior college in Paris, Texas, who missed his opportunity to play in college after the war, but he never tried to live his missed career through either me or my brother when we played sports. And when we played, he and our mother were our biggest supporters.

Dad had a very interesting philosophy on sports, which would never jibe today. “Play because you want to play, not because someone wants you to play. Have fun, and when it stops being fun, stop.” It was a philosophy I’ve always followed, and remembered when my daughter wanted to participate in something.

He had a typical father-son relationship with me and my brother — Dad trying to impart his wisdom and experience to us, and both of us taking the attitude of “That’s just the old man; he doesn’t know anything, and I know it all. There’s nothing he can teach me.” But like Mark Twain, as I got older I found out the “old man” was really pretty smart, and my respect for him and his knowledge grew immensely.

My father died in March 1982 at the age of 60 — way too young, and I have thought about that ever since my 60th birthday. And as I go through my life, there are many things that can trigger a memory or put a lump in my throat. Things like the ending of the movie “Field of Dreams,” where Kevin Costner meets his father and plays catch — an experience I wish I could have, and the veterans interviews on the final disk of “Band of Brothers.”

So this column is honoring a man who guided me through my early years, whose wisdom I miss, and to whom I never told “I love you” near enough.

This Father’s Day, if your father is still living, go see him and tell him, “Happy Father’s Day.” If he lives too far away, give him a call.

I wish I could call mine.

John Surratt is a staff writer for The Vicksburg Post. He can be reached at john.surratt@vicksburgpost.com.

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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