In the Shadow of A Scorned Hero
I remember growing up with stories of my father signing up for the Army the day after Marilyn Monroe died. I’m not sure what that particular fact was supposed to convey to us as children listening to his story, but it was something I never forgot.
My father, Ronald George Slighte, grew up in the shadow of the memory of his father, George Ronald Slighte, who had signed up for World War II just days after Pearl Harbor. He had experienced atrocities in his service before being hospitalized for a head injury from an enemy rifle butt. My grandfather’s service was before my father’s birth and when he was still just a preschooler, his father succumbed to suicide due to the PTSD from his service.
The men that my grandmother would marry after the suicide of her first husband, were horribly abusive to my father and his younger sister. This background lead my dad becoming involved several times by his own admission with the law as a teenager. By the time Marilyn Monroe died, he thought that the Army should be his new venue.
In The Army
From my father’s descriptions, he did NOT like taking orders one bit. When I was growing up, he would always remark about how everyone else was less intelligent than himself and he wouldn’t think to take orders from someone who wasn’t as smart as him. He did not fit in the Army from the beginning.
Back in the early 1960s, if you were homosexual and it was found out, you could be kicked out of the service with a less than honorable discharge. Although I had known my father had a significant sexual addiction, this was the first time that he admitted activity with another man. As a child hearing the story, I was confused. Why would my father purposely get caught in a sexual situation with another man to get out of a commitment that he made with our government?
As an adult, I am humiliated that my father used a rule that was a method of torture for many honest men and women who served our country faithfully and honorably.
He bragged about his successful less-than-honorable discharge to many people. When I was living with him as a young teenager in the 1980s, he petitioned the Department of Veterans Affairs to have his discharge changed to “honorable” for the purposes of obtaining a VA loan for a house. Many decades later, I am thankful that he was unable to get that loan or any other veteran’s benefits that are so few and far between for those who ARE deserving.
My father died in October 1999 after not having any communication with me for 15 years. It was not a coincidence that his suicide corresponded with the weekend of my birthday.
While researching my family history, I have found that I have descended from MANY brave men who have put on uniforms for their country and took up arms. The United States Revolutionary War, The Civil War, The French & Indian War, World Wars I and II have all seen my ancestors serving their country faithfully. I consider myself the GRANDchild of a veteran, the descendant of many veterans.
I am also the daughter of a coward who is working on forgiveness.