A daughter’s reflection on war’s tolls

The author, Melissa Davis, with father, Gary Wayne Farrell, in late 2016
The author, Melissa Davis, with father, Gary Wayne Farrell, in late 2016 Photo provided

Veterans are close to my heart. I was raised conservative and extremely patriotic. My family has long been apart of this county’s military effort.

My great-great grandfather, Thomas O’Farrell, fought for the Union while his brother fought for the Confederacy.

My father, Gary Wayne Farrell, was a highly decorated Vietnam War veteran who served six campaigns throughout Asia at the peak of the war. He was attached to the Helicopter Combat Support Squadron SEVEN (HC-7) known as the SEADEVILS.

His title was combat rescue air crewman/gunner. His life expectancy was 26 seconds.

The SEADEVILS remain one of the most decorated of all units. It is said there are “no finer examples of dedication, professionalism and heroic acts.”

The most notable portrayal is the movie “Apocalypse Now” that depicts the plight of many, including my father — tragic, yet poetic, art imitating life. My father was an integral part of hundreds of rescue missions. Only by the grace of God was his life spared.

I’ve only read online of my father’s courage. He came from the old school of thought: No discussions of war, what he endured was his own burden to bear.

Be that as it may, the aftermath of war was felt and lived by us all, even if the words were never spoken.

The lies to our nation by the powers-that-be and the response by the liberal Americans at the return of the Vietnam veterans, at the most turbulent time in history, remain among the most despicable and shameful acts our country perpetrated against our servicemen.

My father felt betrayed by the country he had fought so valiantly for, and I cannot blame him. Classified CIA missions, distrust of government and people were all a part of who my father came to be after the war.

Post-traumatic stress disorder is a condition well-documented throughout history. I have personally been a witness to its effects, being the daughter of a Vietnam veteran and the wife of a combat veteran.

I’ve danced up close and personal with men who’ve had to do things most could never fathom. All in the name of country. It took me years to understand my father, and in understanding him I’ve come to understand myself.

Age, experience, knowledge and a bit of wisdom brought me to a level of deep compassion and love for my father that was absent in my adolescence. Having the experience of growing up with a father who suffered war sickness ultimately made me a better wife to my husband, Johnny, a combat veteran of the drug wars in Latin America.

Hate begets hate, violence begets violence and the only thing that is said not to beget hate is love, described in the Gospel of Matthew. The men in my life taught me to reserve judgment and simply love them, regardless of their acts and sometimes their behavior.

On March 24, my father took his own life.

Let us all remember the words of the late Navy Commander Lloyd L. Parthemer: “Heroes are not born nor made, they are victims of circumstance wherein they perform beyond any calling.”

Melissa Davis, a fitness consultant, lives in Lee County.