Goodbye, Dad

We laid Dad to rest this afternoon at Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery in San Antonio. James Francis Minor was 82.

Dad was a veteran of Korea and Vietnam wars. When he retired from the Air Force as a Master Sergeant, Dad followed up his military service with a career as a civil servant for the U.S. Department of Defense in Panama. Dad spent most of his life outside the U.S., including almost 40 years in Panama.

When I visited my parents in Panama last year, Dad asked that I bring him back with me. He It was his wish to die on U.S. soil. And Mom doesn’t want to leave Panama.

Dad had his bag packed within 30 minutes of me saying “yes”. I brought him back to Texas with me. It was May of last year.

At Dad’s funeral service today, an Air Force Honor Guard held an American flag over Dad’s remains and carefully folded it before presenting it to Mom with an expression of thanks from the President and the United States of America for his service. The honor guard performed a 3-volley gun salute; one of their own veterans had finally come home.

San Antonio was the first place my parents were stationed (Randolph Air Force Base) after they were married in Panama. It is also where their first child is buried — Luis passed away as an infant. And it is where I was born. I experience a sense of completion with the fact that San Antonio is the resting place for Dad’s remains.

Dad is survived by his younger sister, Helen, who lives in their hometown of St. Louis, Missouri. She is the last survivor of five siblings.

Mom gave me a note that Dad had written years ago. The paper is yellowed and his handwriting is clear, unhindered by the trembles that would come later. I read it aloud at the service today:

Off to see the wizard; the wonderful wizard above, and all the wonderful things he does; because he is the wizard of love.”

Dad was the Tin Man, who all along had a heart of gold.

He was also proud of his Irish heritage. Daddy, I raise to you the parting glass.

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