Ann Bancroft

Ann Bancroft
October 15
I've been a newspaper and wire service reporter, editorial writer, speech writer and communications director. Now I'm writing my own stuff, and have no bosses to blame. I write short fiction and essays about absurd stories I've read in the newspaper and things that rile, amuse or touch my heart.


Ann Bancroft's Links
MAY 27, 2011 1:39PM

He Served, Not Blindly But Well

Rate: 8 Flag

This weekend little American flags will fly over the graves of my father and the 30,000 other servicemen buried at the Presidio of San Francisco. Having the best view any dead person could hope to have was one of the perks of Army service, my dad joked. Also, his ashes were laid to rest near Civil War Generals, Medal of Honor recipients, Buffalo Soldiers and a Union spy.

Now that he’s been gone nearly 23 years, I hope it is okay on this Memorial Day to remember how irreverent my Dad was about the military aspects of being a military man.

Growing up in the Army during the Viet Nam war was a recipe for cognitive dissonance, particularly with a mom who thought the Officers Wives Club was a “crock” and a dad who took off his uniform at the end of each day and poured a gin and tonic while muttering about the "horses asses” responsible for the war.

Dad was not a foot soldier or war strategist or drill sergeant, he was an orthopedic surgeon. The military had paid his way through one of the finest medical schools and for that he was grateful. He was good at what he did, and rose through the ranks for 20 years, saving some lives and many limbs. His job, mostly, was to stitch, staple and cement back together the war wounded and, far too often, to amputate the limbs of 18-year-old kids. He was a patriot, but more pacifist than gung-ho.

Master of the wry aside, the quiet chuckle and twinkling eye, the almost imperceptible eye roll, he never railed, yelled, ordered or commanded. When he was angry with his daughters, all he had to do to bring us to shame and obedience was state our full names.  The surgical residents he trained nicknamed him “whispering Jesus,” because he was so quiet and they adored him. Though he wore it proudly, the uniform he wore did not define him. He was happy when able to grow his hair long and never again be referred to by rank.

The day I snuck off to an anti-war protest in Golden Gate Park, my dad was applying for his first civilian job, his 20 years almost up.  It was a weekday afternoon, so he still wore that uniform, the rank of “full bird” on his shoulders. As he left the medical office where he’d negotiated the next phase of his life, a woman spat on him. “War monger!” she shouted.

 “What should I have done, quit when the war started? What would that have done, deprived the Army of one more doctor?”  That’s all he said about that at dinner.  I said nothing about the protest, but felt both angry and ashamed.

On Memorial Day I honor all who served -- the privates and the generals and the seamen and the SEALS, the pilots and mechanics and quartermasters, the medics and Marines. Our country was and is made safer and better by their service. I honor their families, who sacrifice home and ease and security for the demands of a military life. I honor my father and all the other men and women whose allegiance was not blind, but who served their country well.


Your tags:


Enter the amount, and click "Tip" to submit!
Recipient's email address:
Personal message (optional):

Your email address:


Type your comment below:
So well said and this brought tears to my eyes. My late father and grandfather fought in past wars and all my father wanted me to do was join the Canadian Army.
As you know it was not meant to be:) BUT I still tear up every time I come to these holidays.
Rated with hugs
Mom was a wave on the deck of the Missouri when Japan gave it up. Back in the states she did the best she could to live a life that was worth something her children would remember with love. Sometimes she was good at it but other times the uniforms returned to haunt and cage, As with all veteran's, the war never goes away, and each carry the scar. To honor our men and women, past and present is the least we can do and perhaps the best. To all those in the ground, and those walking still, your esteemed sacrifice will never be forgotten.
A very nice tribute to your father and all the others who have sacrificed their lives for their country, Ann.
Lovely, Michael. Thank you Linda and Fusun!
Your father was a good doctor and a good man. Your story reminds me of some of the characters and stories from the series, "MASH."
Ah, thanks, littlewillie! No surprise that was his favorite TV show
A beautiful and fitting tribute to your father.
A beautiful and fitting tribute to your father.
What a wonderful tribute. I can relate at least on one level; I too protested the war, tho I assure you I never spit on anyone in uniform. I did, however, have heated disagreements with my dad over the war. With the benefit of hindsight, it is now clear the "domino theory" was much over-hyped, and that we could easily have made a deal with Ho Chi Minh had it not been for our irrational fear of the "C" word.
A stirring remembrance that honors your father and his thoughtful patriotism: that his "allegiance was not blind" but that he served his country well is admirable and exemplary.
You speak for most of us Americans, especially the older generations. As a young teen, I remember picking up addresses from soldiers thrown from army caravans driving through B'ham., during WWII, and thinking how lonely it must be on a battlefield so far from home. And your last paragraph reminded me of the script written for Jack Nicholason in "A Few Good Men", as he sat on the stand pouring out the hard truth that we are guarded by men who keep us safe and little do we even think about it until Memorial Day or something special happens to catch our attention. God bless each and everyone who protect us so unselfishly in the service of this country. Blessings, pd
Oh your father was indeed special and so are you. Thanks for the vivid words and tear dropping thoughts afterwards.
Your six-word headline speaks volumes.

From your description of him, no doubt your father would approve.