191109-nrr-hg-famveteransday-01

Army veteran Mike Eakin, the commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Patrick W. Kelley Post 2468 in Roseburg and Kate Windsor’s father.

I remember the day that I realized my dad was one of my heroes.

I grew up knowing that my dad had served in the Army, including two tours in Vietnam and then later in the National Guard in Medford.

I can remember going with my dad when I was really young to a “soldier for a day” event and watching my dad in action. And although I thought that was cool, that wasn’t the day.

Kate Windsor

Windsor

I was nearly 16 years old when my parents took my brother and me on a road trip. My dad loved — as I have now grown to love — making side stops. One stop was in Angel Fire, New Mexico. It was there he took us to a Vietnam memorial museum.

I was a child who loved history, so I was all for it.

Once inside, most of us just branched off into different directions, but I never really liked exploring on my own, so I followed a few feet behind my dad.

As we strolled down dimly-lit hallways gazing upon photographs taken of the actual Vietnam wall, I became a little unsettled. I had never seen such pictures in my life. Yes, I had seen the tank my dad used to drive, I had even seen it being fired at night. However, the pictures I was witnessing wasn’t too appealing to a 15-year-old girl.

By the time I reached the end of the hallway, I noticed that my dad had disappeared. There was a small room off to the side of the main hallway with red velvet curtains. I assumed it was some sort of movie room. As I drew closer to the room I heard the thundering sound of a Huey II helicopter and distant gunfire with muffled radio calling.

I lifted the curtain slightly and snuck in. There, all alone, was my dad sitting on a single bench watching the footage. I stood there for a few moments, just captivated by the footage. I witnessed the most brutal things I’ve ever seen in my life.

I walked over and sat down next to my dad. He didn’t say a word, he simply took my hand into his, tears rolling down his face. It took me a little while to understand what exactly was happening.

Then it hit me. My daddy is a hero. My daddy was there; my daddy, at the age of 17, did and saw things nobody should ever have to see or do. From that day forward, my dad shared so much about his experience in Vietnam. I learned so much, not just about him, but about all veterans.

My daddy is the one who showed me how to respect a veteran and how to care for veterans.

I hope that everyone reading this will take not just Veterans Day, but every day, to say thank you, acknowledge and honor those who have served and are serving in our United States military. They’ve earned it, and they deserve it. Without these brave men and women, our country would be weak and brittle. Find ways to shake a hand, lend a hand, write an encouraging note, give, help or advocate.

Happy Veterans Day to each and every veteran in Douglas County and across the world. From the Windsor family, we love and pray for you each and every day.

Kate Windsor is a Sutherlin resident.

and mother of six kids ranging in age from 11 to 18. Kate recently graduated from Eastern Oregon University with a Bachelor of Arts.

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