Happy Birthday, Jack Hennessy

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I don’t get into town to visit my dad often enough. That’s my loss.

JackHennessySTLPDJack Hennessy, my dad, epitomizes what we call The Greatest Generation.

He helped raise his younger brothers and sister after their mother passed away. Jack was ten. His youngest sibling, my uncle Jim, was a newborn.

Jack Hennessy answered the call of World War II. He was a Machinist’s Mate in the Navy. He answered, again, when North Korea crossed the 34th Parallel.

After service in two wars, Jack continued his life of service and protection on the Metropolitan St. Louis Police Department.  Later, he retired from Sunnen Products Company in Maplewood.

My dad is one of the wittiest men I’ve ever known. Of course, I didn’t always appreciate that wit. Like many  young men, I often wondered what all the other people found so funny. When my college buddies started asking if my dad could come out to the bars with us, I began to worry about my friends’ mental health.

On leave from my own stint in the Navy, though, I began to see what I’d been missing. God gave me the great privilege of living the first 21 years of my life in the home of a great man, one who devoted his life to his kids and their happiness. He’d served community and country proudly, selflessly, and honorably. He’s a devoted grandfather and husband surrounded by loving grandchildren and great-grandchildren, still in St. Louis City where he’s lived his whole life.

Today, Jack Hennessy does what he can to service the country and community he loves. He has his yard signs and bumper stickers, and he’s itching to vote “that bum” out of office.

I wish him a very happy birthday, and hope you will to. He doesn’t ask for much, but I know something he would love: a big win for Romney, Akin, and, especially, his friend Ed Martin Jr. And your No vote on Proposition A wouldn’t hurt, either.

Happy Birthday, Dad.

 

Five Kids and the List of Nos

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Five kids is a lot these days. 

“You have five kids?  Oh, my God!” people say, their eyes bugged out, mouths wide open.

Even when the oldest were babies, developmental psychologists were advising parent not to tell children “no.”  Their theory was that “no” would teach a child limitation and destroy his curiosity.  Instead, offer an alternative.  Well, that doesn’t work. 

But the funny thing is, it’s the no “no” advice is totally out of synch with society.

My dad came home from two wars:  World War II and Korea.  I try, these humid summer nights when the whole house is asleep, to think to of the prohibitions Jack Hennessy faced in 1953.  He change the oil in his car, smoke in the grocery store and Sears, drive a car without a seatbelt, build a house to own liking, spank his kids, let his 16-year-old kids swim without a lifeguard, ride a bike without a helmet, tear down his house and build a new one, fly the American flag, and wash his car in the driveway.

These are just a few of the things his grandchildren can’t do.  And the list of “NO”s getst longer every day, doesn’t it.  For instance, his son, according McCain-Feingold, cannot blog 60 days before an election.  Petty little pleasures, aren’t they? that society denies us.  And it denies us more every, every day.

It saddens me when I read young people’s blogs that seem to encourage the government to deny more freedoms.  They seem willing, even eager, to trade their little bit of freedom for some guarantee of health, wealth, and happiness.  How said and naive.  Of course, their little pieces of freedom are so puny by 1953 standards, it’s no wonder they’re willing to cast them aside.  Sam Adams and George Washington knew some serious freedom; they were eager to die to preserve it for their kids.

And absolute prohibitions are only the start of our denied freedom.  You can’t do a lot of things without money, so another way society limits our freedom–places more “NO”s on us–is taxation.  When Dad came home from Korea, combined taxes were 25 percent of GNP.  Today, the percentage of the economy that goes to taxes is almost 40 percent.  That’s a lot of freedom transplanted from the people to the politicians.

There are dangers in driving without a seat belt, shooting off fireworks, and swimming in a river.  There is life in these things, too.  There is excitement and rush and flush and pleasure.  There is childhood and feeling grown up.  There is joy and memory and anticipation and running through the woods at night laughing with your friends.  There is freedom.  And maybe real freedoms would make the escapism of recreational-cum-addictive drugs  and careless sex less attractive.  Maybe young people today would act more like kids in the 50s if they were allowed to act like kids in the 50s.

Freedom.

I’ll never a have fortune to pass to my children.  And unlike every generation that came before mine, it looks like I won’t leave them a free country, either.   Makes me wonder if my eleven years in the Navy were anything more than a crappy paycheck.

If you must vote on a single issue next year, freedom is the noblest single issue man can live or die for, especially when he has five hungry memories to feed.