Arlington National Cemetery. Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Every little girl has a daddy story to share that they remember from their childhood.

My story starts with a family vacation to Washington, DC, where we visited the Custis-Lee Mansion, better known as Robert E. Lee’s home, located at the top of Arlington National Cemetery

While we were there, my father walked us to the front of the mansion, on a grassy edge of the hilltop. We stood there, with the layers of graves below us, and beyond the monuments of the capital.

At that moment in time, the memory was made when he told us that “Here are buried the heroes of our country and some day, I will be buried here, too!” We really didn’t understand the deeper meaning of his statement; we just wanted to move on to another tourist site.

Later in life, my father was diagnosed with cancer, and he asked me to send away for his military records so he could qualify for Veterans Administration benefits.

In his military records was a certificate written in both English and Korean. Finding it fascinating, I shared it with a business associate of Korean heritage.

I later found out that my associate’s mother was rescued in the battle that the certificate was given for.

My associate made this comment, which I will never forget: “If it was not for your father, my family would not be here…I would not be here!”

With these words, I realized that my father’s legacy goes beyond our family, to many other people who I will never know or meet.

Linda Kraus started her career as a Navy fireman, one of the first women to work in a ship’s engine room. She completed her enlistment at the former Naval Training Center San Diego, after which she earned an MBA and a masters degree in special education. She taught for 20 years in the public schools and now resides with her dog Elf in Los Angeles.

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