Father’s Day causes me to reflect on why I’m so thankful for my 87-year-old dad, Max. He is an Army veteran of World War II. I feel privileged to have been raised by him. His generation, the Greatest Generation, knows what it’s like to literally fight for our freedoms. During World War II, these brave men and women stared evil in the face, came together, and defeated it. I’m fortunate that dad taught me what it means to stand for what is right, to stand for a cause that is greater than any one person, and to remember that our great country is worth fighting for.
Although my dad never received a formal education, he did have his faith and the values of hard work and doing the right thing. He and my mom taught me the importance of those things, and I’ve carried them with me since childhood.
After my mom passed away from cancer when I was 13, it was just my dad and me left to face life’s challenges together. My dad took any and every job he could find to keep food on the table and a roof over our heads. At one point that meant him moving almost half way across the country, and leaving me to live on my own at 16. But that was my dad – doing whatever he had to do to take care of his boy as best as he could.
He and my mom both dreamed of me going to college, and, with the help of the values they instilled in me, I was able to realize their dream. I was the first person in my family to go to college, and because we didn’t have much, I had to work my way through school in three years – because I couldn’t afford the fourth. I took a job in the university library to pay my way, and I had to take out a student loan to cover the difference. During that time, I always remembered the example of my dad: whether it was serving our country in the Army, or providing for his family, he did what it took to get the job done and never complained or gave up; he simply put his head down and went to work.
After graduating law school at the University of Tennessee, I married my wife, Brenda, and we opened a business together. The first month we opened, we made $50. It was tough, but I relied on the values my dad taught me and we kept working-pushing forward. Eventually, we made that business a success.
We now have three boys, and being their father is one of the greatest things that has happened to me. It has been an honor to watch them grow into the men they are today, and something I wish everyone could experience. I’ve tried my best to teach them to do right, and have encouraged them to learn from their grandfather’s experiences as well.
I still talk to my dad on a daily basis – in fact, he lives not too far from us – and I’ve done my best to emulate him as Brenda and I have raised our boys. Those are some big shoes to fill, but those shoes have walked a great path.
I love you, Dad.
Rep. Chuck Fleischmann
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