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COLUMN: For my father, a Vietnam Veteran, words are cheap and actions are meaningful

Not many people my age know a Vietnam War veteran. I do – two of them, in fact.

I have the privilege of calling one of them “Dad.”

My father, Dominick Trombetta, was drafted on April 1, 1968.

At first, he thought it was a joke. It was April Fool’s Day, but a government-mandated train ticket followed.

He was a specialist four rank in the Army, which is the same as a corporal. He typed and carried documents all over the country, including messages sent to the front lines. Dom doesn’t really talk about the war. He’ll talk about the getting involved in the war, but he rarely says anything about actually being there.

That changed during my senior year in high school when he started telling my mom and I a few things here and there.

I vividly remember Dom telling me that he was scared every time he heard a gunshot.

I was surprised to hear that as my dad has always been this quiet, intelligent, honest, fearless man. He is the first one to tell me that my hair is a mess and to go brush it. He doesn’t mince words. He’ll sit with me for hours trying to help me through a math problem he already knew the answer to, or tell me tricks on how to win a fight.

His honesty wasn’t always appreciated. Sometimes I just have bad hair days, but I always listened.

I finally interviewed him about his experiences over Thanksgiving Break. The assignment was for my first journalism class. I asked my dad if – and how – the war changed him.

“It made me harder,” he replied.

It made me pause and think back on the lack of “I love you’s” said the me and mom when I was a child.

For Dom, words are cheap and they always will be. Actions define him.

It was a special occasion when my dad told me he loved me when I moved to college, especially when he said it first.

I remember how I used to get mad when he wouldn’t say it back. My mom would say it to me. Why couldn’t he?

I would stand on the steps before going to bed, saying it over and over again, hoping he would reciprocate just to shut me up. But my father is a stubborn man. He would reply with: “I love me too” or “goodnight” until I gave up.

My dad would do anything for me. He’s someone I can always count on. Dom’s a hardened man, but he’s always there. And he’s my biggest fan. Eventually I understood what he meant by “words are cheap,” and the true impact of war on his personality.

Vietnam veterans were treated horribly when they returned from combat. Today, people say thank you to Dom for his service. I have much more to be thankful for.

Thank you, dad.

Not only your service, but for teaching me that love is shown through actions, not words. Thank you for being my best friend during my darkest days.

Thank you for being proud of me like I am proud of you.