Normally I write about politics, government, and the fight for innocent human life here on Townhall…but today I am talking about a heroic human life that came to an end May 15th – my dad. Charles William Horner was a veteran of the United States Navy for over 20 years and served his country honorably both in Korea and Vietnam. He was a very patriotic man who loved his country and loved his family. During our visitation last night, our family got to talking about his role in the navy and it became extraordinary considering today planes use massively high tech computers to fly…but many people don’t know that didn’t used to be the case – they had what was called flight engineers. Men who had to control the mixtures of gas and oil, set the course, maintain the plane all so the pilots could get where they needed to go. That was my dad, and every mission was a safe and successful one….that’s not to say a few had their “challenges.”
One story that he told me in confidence was when they had left Da Nang to get back to Japan and a near death experience in the air…you see when they got to a cruising altitude, my dad went to get the pilots coffee but noticed something wrong with the cups. In Vietnam, you didn’t know if it was friend or foe servicing your plane and a trap could be set anytime and was this time. I live hand grenade had been put under a cup with the pin pulled and all my dad had to do was be lackadaisical about it and the grenade would have blown up the plane. Not my dad, he was never lackadaisical about anything and noticed the grenade. They opened up the back of the plane and strapped him down and he threw it out. His heroics saved the life of the crew and it was part of his job. That was my dad.
I once asked my dad during the lead up to the Iraq War what he thought about the protests and he told me two things. Number 1, he said, was “Son, I am a soldier and my boss is the Commander in Chief. He says go here, I go there. I simply go where I am told because that is my duty and I signed up for that.” Number 2 was that in Vietnam as a member of a C-130 Military Air Transport Squadron, it was his job to fly in the new soldiers and fly those who didn’t make it back home. He knew the value of an American Soldier probably better than most because he witnessed the heart ache of the flag draped caskets coming home.
My dad was an honorable man, not a perfect man, and there is a difference. He did so many things throughout his life that were so selfishness in nature that there are too long to list. In 2007 he was diagnosed with Mesothelioma Cancer from exposure to asbestos. What is the life expectancy, well 80% succumb within a year – but my dad is a fighter and he wasn’t going down that easy. Towards the end, though, you could see the toll it took on him. I would drive him to his daily radiation treatments and see him getting tired – but he never quit…even telling the doctors “I am coming back for more,” even though he couldn’t. On one of his final days, when still on a ventilator, we had a special moment when all he could do was write. On a note, he said “mom?” wanting to know where our mother was. I assured him she was resting. Next came “ok?” to make sure she was alright, and I assured him she was. Then I asked if there was anything he wanted me to tell her from him, and he wrote “I Love You.” It still makes me cry when I think about it. He was more worried about my mom then himself when he knew he was living his last few days. I prayed that one day I would get to see him off the breathing tube and a week ago today, a day before his funeral, my wish was granted and I got to talk to Dad. It is a memory I will always cherish…along with all the good times over the years. He was a hero to me, but also to his country. He was a great husband and dad. He wasn’t a partisan Republican or Democrat; he was a true independent despite my best efforts. But he always voted for his country and cared deeply for it and that’s a lesson to be learned. I will miss him and will see him again someday in heaven. I love you Charles William Horner. I miss you and most importantly, I am proud of you.
Today, he will be buried with full military honors at the DFW National Cemetery, an honor he earned.
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