When I say “Serving Leader,” who do you think of? For many men and women, it’s their father, who served in the military. Over the years, many fine men and fathers have served the military. Because of their sacrifices, we enjoy the freedom we have today. When I think of serving fathers, I think of my father-in-law, Richard Dewey Sadler. He was a Captain in the US Air Force. I never met Captain Sadler, but I did marry his daughter, Patricia. I’d like to share his story this week as we look forward to celebrating with our fathers and family this weekend.
I believe you can tell a lot about a man by looking at what he leaves behind. In Richard’s case, it’s his family. When you’ve never met someone, you always wonder what he would be like and what values he shared with his children. Here are four values Captain Sadler passed down to his kids.
The first value his family learned was persistence. He tried to get into the Air Force Flight School fifteen times. Even though he had his pilot’s license since he was 14 years old. He didn’t have a degree and that meant he would be passed over for anyone with a college degree. As he used to tell his family, even a tree surgeon got in before him. His lesson taught his children to persist and value their education. For this reason, all his children and grandchildren have degrees, several have advanced degrees.
The second value he taught his children was to be curious. All his children have college degrees but they’re still always looking out for good ideas. Whenever you want to get something done in the family, you have to be prepared to answer many questions. Many of their favorite stories growing up revolve around the dinner table, discussing and debating current events. All his children love to ask wonderful questions and they passed this trait to their children.
The third value he passed on was to have a great sense of humor. This trait served him well when he married my mother-in-law, Mary Rose. She has nine brothers and sisters and they all lived within 45 minutes of each other. I can only imagine how Richard would have dealt with it. Large families bring out the humor in any given situation. Our family is no exception to this. Richard certainly understood humor and could share an occasional dirty limerick, much to the chagrin of his wife. When the family went to comedy clubs there was no one who enjoyed the humor more than Dick.
The fourth value he passed on was to be happy. When times got tough, as they many times do, he would always remind his family what they should be thankful for. He came home from Viet Nam in 1968. He was part of the despised military establishment at 38. He was a young man who had pursued his dreams much of his life and taught his family to dream big! In 1968 there was limited opportunity for a former Captain from the US Air Force. He picked up several jobs, one of which was flying Grand Funk Railroad around the country before retiring from flying forever.
Now why did I share this story with you the week before Father’s Day? I wish all my stories had happy endings. But Richard Sadler’s story ended fifteen years after he retired from the Air Force in hospital bed in Detroit when he died of cancer. I see many similarities to troops returning today. They went away idealists and came home as men who had seen much of our world. These veterans were challenged to take their strengths, skills, and life experiences to help create a better America. High unemployment rates had challenged Dick to provide for his family. Richard had to take roles that were very different than he was trained for. He had been a leader and developer of men in the military, now struggling to provide for his family. He never lost his way and he did what needed to be done to provide his children with a better life.
Now how do we honor men like Richard on Father’s Day? We help them get back on their feet. We provide them with opportunities to use their skills. We open our hearts to provide what they need, not only on the financial front, but on the home front. Take time this weekend to thank the men who helped raise you and give thanks for all they’ve done to help you on your way.
After all, in the end all you have is what you leave behind. In Richard’s case, he left an incredible family who will use what he shared to reach beyond to create a better world for us all.