A Simple Day: Cpl. Jose Montes

 

A Simple Day

by Yolanda Acevedo

JOSE L. MONTES is honored on Panel 41W, Row 25 of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

 

Dad and I left the house early. As always, we had breakfast together. It was still dark outside, but I did not care. That day was going to be just Dad and me.

As we went through the base gates, there was a soldier there. At that moment, I realized that they were always there, a familiar and constant feature in my childhood universe. We went to Dad’s office and said hello to different people. Most I recognized; some I did not. Many had been to our house on different occasions—for parties, to say hello or just to talk. It was 1968, and we were in the middle of the Vietnam War. I guess that during difficult times and being far away from home, friends became family. I remember back then, we had a lot of family! 

It was a beautiful spring day in paradise. After lunch, Dad and I played golf. I had never played golf before that day. I think that, like many things in life, golf is something that you either like or you don’t. I do not like golf. I never have.

That day, however, it was different. That day, I loved golf. It was our special day, and for a little girl who adored her father, it was heaven. Dad tried to teach me to play the game he loved, and I loved every minute of it. We talked, walked and laughed all through the golf course while trying unsuccessfully to play. We shared stories and dreams all day long.

It was the perfect day, just my best friend and me. As time passes by, some memories start to fade, while others remain. I have many memories of Dad, but the images and feelings of that day will stay with me forever.

Years later, I learned that Dad had received deployment orders just a week before our little outing. He was going to Vietnam. He was going to leave me behind. Soon after, he was gone! I was alone and, for the first time, I experienced loneliness. There would be no more breakfasts together, no more playing golf or singing, and no more walks for Dad and me. He left, never to come back.

Among the personal items returned to us by the Army were pieces of Dad’s rosary. He always wore it around his neck. Years later, I decided to put together the remaining pieces. On my wedding day, I hid it in my bouquet. No one knew.

We were deprived of so many days, but not that day. In a very simple and quiet way, he walked down the aisle with me.

We had one more walk together, Dad and me.

 

YOLANDA ACEVEDO lives in Virginia with her two children. She lost her husband, Navy Commander Joseph Acevedo, in Bahrain in 2003 during Operation Iraqi Freedom. She serves as a peer mentor for the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS), a national non-profit organization that provides services to those who have lost a loved one on active duty in the armed forces. She is also a member of Sons and Daughters in Touch (SDIT), a group of children of the men whose names are on The Wall, and spoke at the Father’s Day Rose Remembrance Ceremony at The Wall in 2006.