From my high school friend, Karen O’Meara, I share her words of honor and remembrance for her father, Patrick B. O'Meara (Col. USA. Artillery Ret.)
I am missing my father for ten years now. Today, as we have done on this same day for the last ten years, I picked up my mother for our Sunday trek to Section 59, Arlington Cemetery. Memorial Day is the only day you will see flags placed by the grave markers. The symmetry is awe inspiring as you glance at the thousands in your line of sight.
As you may know, for the last twenty odd years, the Sunday before Memorial Day serves as the day Rolling Thunder comes to Washington bringing their message "Bring our Soldiers Home". It cracks me up to see my mom whooping and hollering at half a million leather clad bikers as they que up in the Pentagon lot for their trip. It gives me a thrill to see the recognition that was never given to the men and women who served this country during the Vietnam War.
I was born in Ft. Hood, Texas. Elvis Presley was there when my father was a young 2nd Lieutenant. I was born in Ft. Hood because the Army decided sending a woman 9 months pregnant on a troop ship to Alaska might not be a smart idea. Two weeks later, the O'Meara's arrived in Alaska on the USNS Frederick E. Funston. Dad was a young Battery Commander and personally fired a 21 gun salute to President Eisenhower when he visited. One of the shells serves as an ash tray on my patio. My father served in Vietnam as an early advisor to the South Vietnamese Government. The year he returned we moved six times. No sooner had my parents purchased their first home, and my father was shipped off to Korea.
In Germany in the early 70's it was the height of the anti-war movement. Drugs were rampant and my dad once donned a wig to meet a young drug informant. When I was eleven years old, my dad one day at came home and slammed what I knew much later to be a brick of hash. At the top of his lungs he screamed at each of us "Do you know what that is???" My sister still in a high chair blinked, as my father continued his tirade of how he just threw an 18 year old kid in the brig for selling a block of 99% camel dung and 1 percent hash. Needless to say, drugs never tempted me in school and even in college. Kids called me a narc.
My father was a man of small stature, but he had an outsized attitude that won him many admirers and maybe got him in trouble once or twice in his career. I never saw him ask his soldiers to do something he, himself would not do. He retired with 34 years in the service; one of the oldest active duty Colonel's. He would boast that his greatest assignment was as Commander, Division Artillery for the 1st Infantry Division (The Big Red One). His final role was as the Chief of Staff for the Presidential Commission on the Bicentennial of the Constitution. It was an odd job for a Cannon Cocker, but one for which he was specifically requested to serve by the Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court, Warren Berger. A role he continued even after the Chief Justice's death.
My father died of a condition from exposure to Agent Orange on April 10, 1999. Four years ago, he was recognized at the Vietnam Veteran's Memorial for his sacrifice. My father's final place of rest is on the east side of McClellan Drive, near the McClellan Arch. Col. Patrick B. O'Meara was never one to pull rank in a town that does so with such vigor. During his twenty years at the Pentagon, I am aware he only asked for one favor: that his final resting place in Arlington be under a cherry tree and nowhere near sight of the Pentagon. Today, I honored my father, visiting him in Section 59 under a Cherry Tree and the Pentagon, nowhere in sight. ~Karen O’Meara
I was so glad to get just a glimpse of Col. Patrick B. O’Meara’s life of service. It is incredible to think that each one that serves can be such a important part of our nation’s history. Back when I was young and running around with his daughter in high school, I didn’t understand the significance of the man or his service. I’m glad I finally get it. It would be a crying shame to live and never know the beauty of the lives of those that made this life possible for all of us. Running miles in honor of Col. O’Meara is the least I can do to say thanks.