A Daddying Call To Arms
A Special Memorial Day 2023 Guest Post by Everett Cox
with Introduction by DCG and Daddying Film Festival & Forum Founder Allan Shedlin
EDITOR'S NOTE: In the DADvocacy Consulting Group's Armor Down/Daddy Up! program workshops for veteran fathers and their children, we note at the outset that there are two times in your life when your identity is changed instantly and forever: when you become a dad and when you join the military. For many, when they enlist in the military, they are answering a certain type of “call to arms.” When they separate from the military, they are being called to a different set of arms – their children’s arms, and vice versa. The skills necessary to succeed in each of those roles can be vastly different and immensely challenging.
When this Memorial Day weekend comes around, I will be at my post as a volunteer at Arlington National Cemetery for an extraordinary program now in its 10th year. The Mindful Memorial Foundation program was created by Ben King, an Iraqi War veteran who earned a Purple Heart during his service. Ben is the proud father of two daughters, a vital member of our DADvisory team, and a Daddying blog contributor.
Working with Ben at Arlington and co-creating and co-facilitating the AD/DU! program has made me aware of the challenges faced by veterans when they transition back to civilian lives. That interest has led to our Daddy Appleseed Fund’s support of, and work with, two other extraordinary groups that offer creative ways to support veteran dads in their transition: Horses for Heroes, and the EXIT12 Dance Company.
In our work with EXIT12, I had the opportunity to meet Everett Cox, a Vietnam War veteran. He shared with me some of his own writing, which reflects the extraordinary challenges that veterans and their families face as a consequence of their service.
During a time when the world is once again at war, and the number of those enlisted to fight grows, as well as the millions of innocents forced to flee the insanity, it seems important to be reminded of the everlasting toll it takes on the men, women, and children caught in the middle of it all. But we also must be reminded of our consequent obligation to do whatever we can to assist and honor those who have served, continue to serve, and the countless number of people who are impacted by their sacrifice. And, most importantly, each of us should be mindful of living more peacefully and "beating [our] swords into ploughshares."
The following selections of poetry and prose were written and shared with us by Everett. We have republished them here with his permission.
* * *
EDITOR'S NOTE: Everett wrote the following piece after hearing me recite my poem, "A Daddy's Prayer," as a prompt during one session of the EXIT12 workshop series aboard the USS Intrepid in New York City, 4/24/23. - Allan
"I want you to live until you are 101," he told me. "I need you to stick around so we can talk."
He knows 101 is my lucky number. When he was born, I promised him I would not kill myself. I know the children of suicides have a higher risk of suicide. He became my reason to live.
"Don't put that on your son." I was told.
I never told him. But I have told other vets to live for their children.
"Don't tell them but do it."
- Everett Cox
* * *
AUTHOR'S NOTE: My favorite piece is my first piece as a vet. I call it [that] because for 40 years I denied and avoided my military and war experience. In 2010, I went to a veterans retreat and began to speak about it and it radically changed my life and continues to do so.
An Open Letter to Veterans
Dear Brothers and Sisters of the Wars in Afghanistan and Iraq,
Please don’t kill yourselves. Don’t do it.
The suicide rate for vets is four times the numbers that die in war, now between 18 and 22 a day. Time heals. Give yourself time. Avoid impulsiveness. Impulsiveness gives no time. Get the guns out of the house. If you have a noose ready, get rid of it. A stash of pills, get rid of them. A stripped electric line? Get rid of the readiness.