Tuesday, November 11, 2008

about: my heroes

The most important men in my life happen to be veterans.

Last year, I posted that my grandfather was accepted into the WWII memorial here in DC.

Here’s the memorial and his entry at the memorial. Neat huh?

After working out this morning, I read the eulogy that I wrote for him and remember him today as one of most inspirational people in my life and as an important part of this country’s history.

I could sing praises and praises of my Papa, but today, I think I’ll share with you my unsung hero.

This one of my favorite pictures of my family except that my sister isn’t in it (sorry sis).

My dad is one of the bravest men I know. Not only did he survive living in a house with four very strong, opinionated women (my mom, myself, my sister and his mother), but he left the Philippines to join the U.S. Navy back in the 1970s.

Did I mention that he didn’t really speak English?

After persevering through all the enlistedNavy stuff, he set a foundation for his life here in America, learned English and adapted. Always the gregarious social butterfly, he met my mother at the bowling alley and they decided to get married. My mother was lucky enough to have her whole immediate family and a lot of her extended family here during her wedding. My father? He got married alone with no family as everyone was still in the Philippines.

Eventually they had me and my sister. They decided early on that it would be easier to raise me and my sis if we didn’t have to live the military lifestyle. They set down roots and bought at house just right out of DC, near my mom’s family, and settled down. Dad did all the traveling he was assigned and came home when he could; mom worked full time, was the breadwinner and was home to raise us. This was one of the sacrifices they were willing to make to make sure we grew up easier. It was really hard on my mom to not have my dad there for long spurts of time. My mom relied heavily on her siblings; and my sis and I had to adjust every time he came home.

When I was around 10, my dad was stationed in VA beach. Besides being stationed in the Navy Yard, this was the ‘easiest’ for my parents. He would live on the ship from M-F and commute the 3 hours back every weekend to stay in our home. One day after Christmas, as I played my newly received Tetris game, my father was packing up to leave. This wasn’t unlike any other Sunday night, and I thought nothing of it. As I played, I was beckoned to say goodbye to my father, to which I responded with a casual yell “bye daddy!” controller still in hand. I was on level 5, after all. Not two minutes later, I was beckoned again to give him a hug. I don’t remember much from that moment but after being forced to hug my dad, I could feel that something was different. Something was off.

It was a few weeks later that the Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm were all over the news. As I flipped through a Time magazine article detailing the war efforts, I noticed that my dad’s ship, USS America was in the Suez Canal. My dad was in a war zone. I was in the 5th grade.

I was too young to understand it all, but I knew this was big. We wrote letters to the soldier in Miss Miller’s class and got my best friends at the time to write letters to my dad. (He later brought them Toblerones from Germany; it was a big hit.) Obviously, the war ended and they sent the troops home. My dad got a treat and the ship did a tour of duty throughout Europe, the Mediterranean and the Caribbean. Finally, we got word that there would be a formal homecoming and we were all invited to Norfolk for the ship’s docking. He would have been gone, I think, 2 or 3 years at that point.

When a Navy ship docks, the families are invited to stand on the dock and look up at the sea men in their dress whites lined up on the deck and hanging from every opening on the aircraft carrier. USS America was the size of a small city and was big enough to carry almost 80 war planes. When the boat docked, there was literally a sea of white on the boat. I remember my mom and uncle joking around that it was pretty much near impossible to be able to see our dad on the ship. But I searched anyway. And there he was, hanging from one of the lower level ports, waving right at me. It’s something that I’ll never forget.

When I was little, everyone told me I was just like my dad. I looked like him, I talked like him, I was loud like him. I always thought this was meant that I looked like a boy and hated it. Now I’m proud to be like my father: gregarious, loud, opinionated, and even carry the Mercado features. But most of all, I strive to be strong, generous and honorable like him -- my daddy, my hero.


  1. aww, what a sweet entry! you have an awesome family.

  2. wow leah, this is amazing. thank you so much for sharing him with all of us! xoxo