For Rose, growing up without her dad and spending years trying to uncover any pieces of his life brought her to not only understand and know him just a bit but also knowing and understanding herself. This gave her a passion to work with our veterans and support them in way that make sense to me.
Here's what Rose has to say:
"On March 6, 1971, my dad was killed in Vietnam; I was only a year old. I never had a chance to meet my dad. In early 2019, I learned some new information about him that has led me to believe that just maybe he got to see me at least one time.
All my life, I've struggled with the sadness of "why him". I've felt the loss of his presence very strongly. For many years, I searched for answers about him. Early September, 2013 my research paid off in a big way!
As I was combing through the internet, I came across a website that listed names of other men who had served in the same unit as my dad. The first information I found was that he didn't die alone - two other men lost their lives that same day along with their Kit Carson Scout. That bit of info shook my reality and gave me a huge wake-up call. I wasn't the only one suffering - of course, I knew many of our servicemen died in Viet Nam and I knew there's hundreds of other Gold Star Families but just knowing my dad was killed in an incident that took three men on the same day was sobering.
As I continued going through this website, I found the name of one man who had filled in the field with his email address. After my years of searching, you'd think I would jump at the chance to reach out and connect. But that was not true - I knew this man had seen three men in his unit be taken in an instant. I was afraid he wouldn't answer or want to talk about my dad and I agonized for over a week about contacting him. Finally a friend urged me to send a message and see what would happen.
I sent the email and was shocked at how quickly I got a response back! He also invited me to connect with him over the phone. I couldn't believe I could actually have a conversation with him. He wasn't close to my dad but he was right there when he died and he lost his leg in the incident. He told me what he remembered about that day as well as what he knew about my dad. I was so grateful to hear his story and listen to what he remembered. He said he'd connect me with other men in the unit and they'd reach out to me as well. And they did!
Two other men called me and told me about the day my dad died. It was sobering listening to one man's story as he told what he remembered with a catch in his voice and had to pause to regain his composure. I was also connected to my dad's first sergeant and we're now friends on Facebook.
I finally had the answers I'd been looking for; my dad was serving his second tour and was new to the unit so they didn't know him well. But I learned a few things like: he had a stutter, and they called him "Cool Hands Luke" from a popular movie during that time. I also learned something very important. He chose to go to Viet Nam! At first, that stung quite a bit - he could've stayed home and been there for me. I learned he'd left Germany and went to Vietnam not because he thought he was some bad-ass soldier but because he wanted to help; he felt he could make a difference.
As I talked with the men who'd served with my dad, I was amazed at how easily I was able to have a conversation with them. As a die-hard introvert having conversations with other people is rarely ever easy. In 2016 I was introduced to a local AMVETS Riders chapter and found how much I enjoyed being around all the veterans. From the friendships I formed and seeing how much everyone enjoyed putting their talents to work helping veteran's causes, grew a desire to find my own way to help veterans.
On September 11, 2017, I finally took my first steps towards doing something to support our veterans. I joined the Ladies Auxiliary of AMVETS Post 13. In early spring of 2018, I joined the AMVETS Riders 13 chapter, got my motorcycle license and bought my first bike. Shortly after joining, I was appointed secretary for our local chapter and communications officer for our state department. It was during this time I decided to start reaching out and helping veteran owned businesses and veteran's organizations get found on the internet. In honor of my dad, John Luke, I want to carry on the desire he had to help and make a difference.