Our Father’s Flag

While camping in Nine Mile Canyon two women from California, in their 50’s, were asking my wife Janice and I about our favorite prehistoric sites in the canyon. 

Then they informed us that they were political progressives and asked the question, “why are people in Utah predominantly conservative?” Both of us answered that is the way we were raised. 

Both of our fathers served in World War II and were proud of what this nation had accomplished to bring peace to the world. We were raised with strong Christian values of community, law and order, hard work, self-reliance, and service to others. That is probably typical of the majority of Utah County.

Janice’s father was the youngest of four brothers and the only one not married when he volunteered for the Army Air Corp. He hoped to be an airplane mechanic; however, he was the right size to be belly gunner on a B-17. He was on his 24th mission over Germany when his airplane was shot down. He parachuted out of the airplane and was captured by the German Army. He spent 17 months surviving as a POW. Never talking much about his war experiences, he did talk about how proud he was of Americans freeing Europe from Nazi Germany. 

Janice’s father remained proud and patriotic his entire life. His brothers realized finding work might be a problem after the war and established three trading posts on the Navajo reservation. Janice’s dad ran a trading post called Sweetwater. He married a woman from Farmington, N.M., and they had four sons and two daughters. One is my wife. Her father was wonderfully dedicated to the Navajo people and spoke excellent Navajo, according to several old Navajos who remembered him.

Enlisting in the Army, my father said goodbye to his high school girl friend as she gave him a small Bible to carry with him and he promised to join her church if he returned. 

He was an infantry soldier who landed in France with the third wave at Normandy. Months later he earned a purple heart from a battle wound during the Battle of the Bulge. After that he wore a brace on his right ankle. 

He returned home to his sweetheart with the Bible she gave him, they got married and lived a happy life together until he passed away in 2014. The GI Bill paid for his undergraduate and medical school education. He never talked much about his war experiences, other than his limp was from a war injury. He always was proud of our nation and flew the U.S. flag at his house and on his RV when he retired from 40 years as a family physician in Grand Junction, Colo. He was always active in his church and was a leader of youth activities for many years.

Both men were businessmen, Janice’s father ran a trading post. A capitalist endeavor which required disciplined accounting and conservative business practices to stay in business. It also required a trusting relationship with his customers, the Navajo people in the region. 

My fathers’ medical practice was back in the days of the independent doctor’s office (unlike today, when physicians work for the health corporation). A business enterprise that had to be run conservatively to enable the business to continue month after month. Dad’s first office was a two-story house east of the Main Street business district.

The doctor’s office was on first floor and the family lived upstairs. As the number of patients increased the office location was upgraded and dad spent his spare time building a new family house on the north side of Grand Junction. Free enterprise, business and home ownership is what the United States and its God blessed constitution is about. He loved and appreciated this country.

So now you know how we explained to the two ladies from California how we were raised to appreciate the greatness of the United State and the traditional values of this nation. 

Janice and I were raised with wonderful role models that are so important to young people. Today we are thankful to live in south Utah County where there are so many people that share these same values. We are constantly delighted to see houses flying the American flag and remembering our historical roots.

The rest of the story:

The man referred to in this article was not my biological father. As a baby I was adopted as an only child into a dysfunctional family. There was no family and that is another story for another day. Through church youth activities I sought out time with the Jim Dunn family. As an early teenager I realized I adopted them. I did a lot of camping trips with them and spent a lot of time at their house. Jim and another doctor in our church, Ward Studt were the men who formed my life. They were the reason I went to college, the same college they went to. 

Later earning a Master of Public Health from the same University they went to. I spent a lot of time with Jim in his last year and took Jim and his wife Lou on several trips. I was thrilled when he told me I was the son they didn’t have (they had two daughters and still-born son). 

Janice and I were at Jim’s side and each holding his hand the night he passed away at the Veterans Hospital in Grand Junction. His newspaper obituary listed me as his son. I will remember that with honor. I regularly refer to Jim as my father. I have little memory of the man and woman who adopted me or any of their relatives. 

I am grateful every day for the two men, Jim Dunn and Ward Studt, who were my male role models and contributed to who I am and the interesting life I look back on at age 77. (Helmick is a Serve Daily contributor.)

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