A Letter To My Father, From His

My father passed away just last month at age 88. It affected me much more than I could ever have imagined.
He flew for the United States Air Corps in WWII. He took his primary flight training at Stockton Field, California, and graduated in 1941. My father, Richard, apparently received a letter from his father, Verto, before Dad was off “for points West” in 1941.
I found this letter amongst my Dad’s things, buried in his desk, in an envelope bearing the return address of a law firm in Dallas, Texas, postmarked 1979. It was addressed to my grandmother, his mother, likewise in Dallas. Because of this circumstance, I wondered: Why was it sent from a law firm to his mother? Did my father ever see this letter when it was meant to be seen? When his father was still alive? Or did he only see it when his mother’s estate closed, after his father passed away?
I’ll never know.
Typewritten on onion-skin, the words within are poignant, sage, prescient. They moved me. I think they’ll speak to you as well.
________________________________
Dear Son:
I hope that I can finish this letter so that it can be mailed in sufficient time to reach you before you board the rattler for points West and your next experience in training for an eaglet in the Air Service of Uncle Sam.
I have learned that the very cheapest thing one will ever run across in this life is advice because everyone wants to give it away and so few will ever accept it. So I have been several hours in completing these paragraphs, blue penciling here and there lest I make my epistle a treatise on the “more abundant life” of New Deal parentage rather than a few timely remarks covering the fundamentals which do provide and form the background as happiness and success as America measures them.
And, I might add here, that I fervently hope that this same American measurement as applied to happiness and success will continue to be the yardstick for many years, so work hard and be ready to do your part if necessary to annihilate any and all of the cockeyed Fascist or Communist interpretations of what is best for mankind and its soul.
I shouldn’t be a bit surprised that the first week or two after you leave home, that you will be amazed at the really remarkable memory you possess and in your particular case, it will be a pleasant memory. This is what is commonly called “Homesickness” but when it is stripped right down to the chassis it is merely an association of pleasant thoughts, pleasant surroundings and pleasant people who are vitally interested in you, plus an overwhelming sense of a loss of security. Doctors sometimes use what they call a counter irritant to take the mind off the chief pain or trouble of their patient and the best counter irritant to an acute attack of “pleasing memories” is deep concentration on your work.
You should be extremely grateful in that you have been a fairly regular attendant at Sunday School, of a splendid common sense religion and, without even dwelling on the manifold advantages of a good Sunday School background, one of the most practical benefits it will give you is that it will help you to see things in their true proportion.
Jesus once had something to say about people who strain at a gnat and swallow a camel, and one of the chief causes of much unhappiness in life is our confusion as to the relative importance of things.
So many trifles seem to big and important; we indulge ourselves so much in fretting and rebelling against the minor things, we can endure a severe physical pain with genuine stoicism, but the bark of a dog or the crunch of crackers upsets us tremendously.
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Whenever you feel that you are beset with many troubles, take a little time off and look into the Bible, particularly the New Testament; it will do you a lot of good, and you will be amazed how your troubles will disappear. The Bible does teach you to see the big things of life in a big way and the minor things as minor ones; it will give anybody true perspective.
As you go through life, you will learn that the simple life is the most effective one and also the happiest. Regardless of anyone’s argument to the contrary, you will always find that the really big successful people in America today, regardless of simple pleasures, have simple taste, are very modest and usually have a deep religious character. McKinley, a great President, put corned beef and cabbage on the White House menu, and I expect, if you knew the real “low down” on that commanding officer of yours, you would find that perhaps he has a secret yen for growing nasturtiums.
The more successful they come the more big people are interested in getting information; they never hesitate to learn from anyone. Only small potatoes with warped mentalities are showy or pretentious, and those with an obnoxious abundance of conversation about themselves generally are using their long winded gyrations to cover up their deficiencies. Always remember that egotism is the cause of more conversation than learning or wit.
My experiences and observations have taught me that honesty is not only the best policy but it is the only policy, because dishonesty is its own downfall, sooner or later. It has been said that many wealthy people have obtained their money or their power by dishonest means and perhaps that is so. But you will always find that sooner or later either their conscience or the law catches up with them and the fellow with the big stick ends up either with a shiny seat in his pants or a hard cell in the hoosegow. Dishonesty is like that queer implement that Australians use, the “boomerang”: it always makes the circuit and always comes back and smacks you in the face when you aren’t looking.
Dishonesty never paid dividends to anyone. It is just about as dangerous as an elephant hanging over the edge of a cliff with his tail tied to a daisy.
And now to an element a little less mental than some I have mentioned, but none the less important and that is WORK. Work is essential to success in any line of endeavor and don’t let any of the textbooks tell you differently. Some people have said that worry kills more men than work, and that is true because more men worry than work. So far as I know no one ever died from work in this country, but thousands may die in this country if we don’t settle down to work soon.
Truly work is the most fascinating thing in the world. It rests the soul, it feeds the brain, and it gives a sense of security that is really marvelous. Never envy those who have apparently nothing on their hands but time and nothing on the brains but hair. You will get more downright thrill in the simplest job well done than
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they will ever get in a lifetime. Nothing worthwhile was ever accomplished except by work and any success you ever heard of was the result of one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration.
As a matter of fact, you will find the economic progress of any nation is generally measured by its working hour. The real fortunes and the real industries of this nation were the result not of the 40 five day week, but a working day of dawn to dusk with Wednesday off for prayer meeting. The calamity howlers have spread their gospel that America is in terrible condition, but let me assure you that there is nothing whosoever wrong with America that work won’t cure.
I must bring this letter to a close. I have merely scratched the surface of a few important things it will pay you to remember. I do hope you ahve not been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age and don’t let the doleful howls of a few hair-brained spell-binders upset you.
You shall soon be in the greatest service of the greatest and finest nation in recorded history; its principles of free speech and free enterprise shall exist. You have lived as a youngster in a period when economic and social upheavals have caused a temporary distortion in the American manner of progress, but mind you, this is only temporary and America will come out of it, for faith and freedom and security are just as near at hand today as ever before.
You are indeed a fortunate individual in that you are on the threshold of the new America that will arm itself to insure the retention of its principles of freedom, and by the very reason of your being a part of this greater respect and a deeper love of those principles for which America stands.
So in the realization of a real success in the job you have ahead of you and I have complete confidence that you will be a success which can be measured only in terms of Honesty, Simplicity, Tolerance and Respectability — there can be no greater honor or reward that could possibly come to me than in being —
Your Dad,
(unsigned)
P. S. I am enclosing a check in case you might need a little cash before your first pay-day. Remember, never open a pot with two pair when the deuces are wild.
______________________________________
At one point, transcribing this, the tears flowed freely down my cheeks. The words are ever so valid now as then. Words of wisdom. Common words of sense and insight. Words I wish to share with you. And words I need to embrace and remember. Words this country needs to hear and see.
Let freedom ring, brothers and sisters. We cannot, we must not, let this country fall. Our Fathers tell us so.
BZ

45 thoughts on “A Letter To My Father, From His

  1. I am compelled to tell you how proud I am of your grandfather for writing this letter; how proud I am of your father’s service to our country; and how very proud I am of you for publishing it.

    Semper Fidelis

  2. BZ,
    This is America. I wish I could have talked to my grandfather who fought in WWI. I am thankful to have known my dad who was in the navy during the Korea War. They were my role models as this letter told you. What a treasure.

  3. I knew Mustang would love this, too.

    BZ, I hope you don’t mind, but I’d like to link to this on my Sunday Faith Blog today…..we get a lot of the same visitors, but some won’t have seen it and I believe ALL AMERICANS SHOULD..It’s just wonderful, has so much in it…

    and says SO MUCH about your family.

    God bless, Z

  4. BZ…in the Navy we’d say Bravo Zulu or BZ…great that you reprinted this here.

    I know you’ll always miss your father…mine went home in 1996, I stilll miss him.

  5. I came over from Z’s, and I’m so glad I did!

    Who could read this wonderful letter, and not be moved in a powerful way?

    It really is what our America is all about..courage, respect, wisdom, and love.

    Your father had to have been an exceptional person..he had such an exceptional role model, as did you, I’m sure.

    I would like to link this, so that others may read it, and feel what I am feeling, right now.

  6. BZ, It’s clear you have the good fortune to have come from a wonderful, solid, and loving American family.

    A legacy that I’m sure has served you well. Thank you for sharing this moving tribute to good men who strove to give their best, to you, and America. Truly beautiful.

    Pris

  7. bz – that’s a wonderful letter and a tribute to your father, grandfather and entire family! thanks for sharing what must be such a great piece of family history to be treasured! i don’t know if you have sons or daughters, or grandchildren, but this is a wonderful family item that should be passed on and on…..

  8. AJ, Mustang, Jo, David Wyatt, Ranando, LOT, Dan, DD2, Z, WHT, EB, CS, Jan, Joecephus, Ron, Pris and Don: thank you all, ever so MUCH for your comments, and thank you for visiting and taking the time to write something. It’s still tough to take, and I suppose it will be so for a time to come; these words mean much to me. Thank you again.

    And please, if you wish, copy the letter, reprint it, send it around the internet. We need, in my opinion, more words like these to hold this great country together in these times.

    BZ

  9. BZ,
    Thank you so much for posting this letter. The words are excellent advice across the ages!

    Some people have said that worry kills more men than work, and that is true because more men worry than work.

    We see the above being played out right now across America, particularly in the White House and on Capitol Hill. But the playing out is also occurring among many in our population.

    Can America turn itself around? Yes, but only by taking the steps to sacrifice and to work.

    One of my mother’s favorite hymns, one that she lived by, was “Work, for the Night Is Coming.” Would that all of us would buckle down!

  10. I just spent an hour trying to make some of these points myself. Reading this informs me of how weak that attempt truly was. I have printed this, and will re-read it when occasion evolves. Thank you for your post. You should be proud of both your father and your grandfather. They seem to be the type of men with whom I would like to associate closely. (at seventy plus, who knows? the opportunity may evolve sometime soon)

  11. BZ, Thanks for sharing. The common sense that comes from Good Christian people cannot be underestimated. Your great Grandfather was certainly an intuititive individaul and was wise beyond compare. Great post…stay well….

  12. BZ, the ideals expressed in that beautiful letter used to be the norm. It is so sad that things are so different now and will probably never revert back to those times. You have an invaluable reference to a most patriotic past and I know it will be one of your most treasured possessions. Thank you so much for sharing it with us. God bless you and your family, past and present.

    Joe

  13. amazing. my grandfather when he came from ireland, joined the army a few years later. their honor, insight, and faith was unlike anything this country has seen. I’ve read a few letters from my grandpa to my father and it brings tears to my eyes. your family has a strongh idea into what america should be today. his words are true, pure, and filled with the idea of passing down the knowlege only a father can pass down to his son. it makes me want to be a better father.

    thank you for sharing bz

  14. As I come from a long line of military, I really took these words to heart. This was written by a great man to another great man. I am having my 24 year old son read it to understand a little more about how great this country really is. No matter what person in heading it, no one can destroy it. Thank you for letting us read this.

  15. My father is heading toward what Ronald Reagan termed the sunset of his life. My mother passed away in 1995 and I have no other family. He won’t be here much longer and I am terrified of what it will be like when he is gone. Thank you for sharing that with us.

  16. Peter: I’m very sorry to read of your mother’s passing, and now the realization that your father may not have so many years left. If you like, e-mail me; it isn’t easy. But all the people here, all the folks who visit my blog — we can help.

    BZ

  17. Peter, I am praying for you. Remember that Jesus Christ, the One who went to the cross & willingly died for you, wil never leave nor forsale you if you trust in Him.

    Thanx again BZ for your great blog. God Bless.

  18. BZ, what an incredible legacy your grandfather left for you and coming generations.

    Beyond the obvious wisdom here and love in this letter, the following grabs my heart:

    You are indeed a fortunate individual in that you are on the threshold of the new America that will arm itself to insure the retention of its principles of freedom, and by the very reason of your being a part of this greater respect and a deeper love of those principles for which America stands.

    Today, we are, indeed, on the threshold of another new kind of America that has little to do with what the majority wants for our Nation.

    At the time this letter was written, the deep, deep love of God, country and family was all enveloping for almost all Americans. We desperately need the same today.

    Another thing I noticed, again besides the obvious, was the reference to Sunday School. What a precious comment from a father to a son. My church has renamed Sunday School “Community.” Sigh.

    I’m so sorry for the loss of your father, but I know you have sweet memories. Somehow, we get beyond it but it is never easy.

    Blessings to you and your family at this difficult time.

  19. Wow, what an amazing fabric square in the quilt of your past, thanks so much for sharing that with all of us. I now know where you got your voice, your ability to comment on life in a language and style I fear are falling victim to the clipped, terse syntax of the email, the text message, the “tweet”. As others have commented, “what a treasure”.

    Steve

  20. Maggie: that’s why I found the letter remarkably, shockingly valid today as well as then. America is recoiling in on herself, charting an unsure path, captained by fluctuous and irresponsible “leaders.” America is, in my opinion, in almost as precarious a position now as when she was in a time of world war.

    Steve: thank you very much; I’m enjoying writing more with each passing month.

    BZ

  21. This was truly a great letter from a wonderful person.

    You must be a great Son and Grandson

    Good job here, I saw your comment on DD2’s blog and I wanted to stop over and say hello.

  22. Wow, what a wonderful, powerful letter. You are so fortunate to have such a neat and personal piece of history. Thanks so much for sharing.

    And, I’m so sorry for your loss, BZ.

  23. Wow! I am touched by the words you chose to share here. I often ponder the America that our grandfathers and fathers left us ans what shape we will leave it to our childern. I hope that, today, we can live up to the values given voice by your grandfather.

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