Thomas dickerson

SP4 THOMAS GERALD DICKERSON

  • Branch: Army
  • Hometown/City: THOMASTON, GA
  • Date of Birth: 01-05-1950
  • Date of Death: 11-23-1968
  • Conflict: Vietnam
  • Unit:
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    His name is Thomas Gerald Dickerson. Everybody called him Tommy or Buck. I simply call him Daddy. Buck is the name that other veterans remember him by. I never knew my daddy. He was killed when I was 4 months old. He never got to come home between the time I was born and his death. My grandparents (his parents) were great and were really, to my mind and my heart, a fill in for him in my life. They both passed away several years ago, within a year of each other. When I lost them, I felt tremendous grief. Not only the grief that most people would feel at the loss of a grandparent, but I also lost what was to me, the largest and most profound part of my Daddy. I was too little to remember, or to even know, grief when Daddy died. But when Granny and Granddaddy died, that’s when I grieved the loss of my Daddy. It is the memories shared by the both of them, by my Momma, by other family members and friends, by people who are strangers to me, but who knew daddy in school, all of these people’s memories come together to give me something that I wouldn’t otherwise have. You just don’t know what that means to me. I could never put that into words that would fully encompass my gratitude. I have blue eyes. I got them from my daddy, and so did all 4 of my kids and all of my grandkids. I also got a monster of a cowlick from him, as did all of my children and grandchildren. His hair was so light blonde that when it was shaved military style, it was hard to see. He was tall. He had long arms. I know this because Granny gave me his uniform that she had saved. I have used that uniform and photographs to create a mental picture of him for myself. I see my Daddy in all of my kids, but especially in my boys. Sometimes they will smile a certain way or tilt their heads at a particular angle and I can see my Daddy there. And of course there are the blue eyes and cowlicks that I believe are his way of saying “hey, those are my grandkids and my great-grandkids”. I tell everybody that my daddy marked all of them. He liked Tammy Wynette, and he liked canned smoked sausage, that kind that came in the little yellow can with the picture of a boy on it. He liked to shoot pool and he liked to dance. I have been told that he was strong and brave, scared of nothing. They say he was a really good shot with a gun. And people have told me that he was a pretty good football player when he was in school. Other things that have been said when people talk about him to me include: he was kind hearted, unselfish, and proud to be country, he treated everyone equally; he was tough and adjusted well to tight situations; he was heroic; he was slender and wiry, and always ready to do what was needed at any given moment; He was a plain old country boy from Georgia, with a deep country accent – if I close my eyes, and open my imagination, I can almost hear him. During a phone conversation with a friend a few weeks ago, I was told that when I talk about Daddy to others, that I speak of him as if he is still here with me. Well, he is. And realizing that that comes across in everyday conversation makes my heart happy. A relatively recent discovery for me was that Daddy was deployed to Vietnam on March 21, 1968. My daughter, was born on March 21. I found that out when I requested a copy of his military records from the VA. When they came, I sat and read through them. I got to see the form that Daddy completed to join the Army. The thing that made me cry? His fingerprints. They were included in the paperwork. Sometimes it’s the smallest of things that pricks my heart and brings me to tears. I am a member of a group called Sons and Daughter's in Touch. We are all Gold Star Children who lost our dad's in Vietnam. I consider them to be my brothers and sisters and that is the one place that I can go and very freely share my feelings about anything related to my dad or my life without him. They understand. I have never personally known anyone else who lost their dad over there, and when I found that group and realized how many of us there are, it was somewhat bittersweet...knowing that I am not alone and actually being able to talk with others who grew up just like me and who feel things just like I do. Sometimes I read or hear some of their words and it’s as if they are pulling the words right out of my heart and speaking them for themselves. The one common bond that we share is strong. We share the love we have for our dads, the grief that we feel over our losses, and the pride that we have in being their children. We can laugh together and we can cry together and we never judge each other because we all understand. It’s unbelievable to me that it took me over 40 years to finally have contact with another human being who lost their daddy in Vietnam. There are so many of us, but as we were growing up, we all felt very isolated, like nobody else knew what it was like. I have these small bits of information that have been shared with me thru the years, and I have some pictures and a few letters. I wear a memorial bracelet every single day. I feel like that is my way of helping my Daddy to experience things with me. I often find myself touching the bracelet as if I am sharing something with him. We go hunting together, we ride the motorcycle together, we go to watch my grandkids activities together, he goes with me to all of the birthday parties, and all of the holiday dinners, we watch football together (and yes, by default, my Daddy is a Crimson Tide Fan!). That may seem crazy to some people, but that is how what I feel about it. I have a Good Star Family tag on my car with "Buck" on it. Those tags just became available in my state last year, so I am very glad and honored to be able to have it on my car. The very first tattoo that I got is one in memory of my Daddy. Even when I am old and if it gets to where I can’t remember my own name, that will still be there, for others to know that there was someone special in my life, someone who died for our freedoms. My momma once told me that my daddy loved yellow roses. One of my two most personal interactions with my daddy is this: One morning just a couple of years ago, in the dead of winter, long after all of my other flowers had died out, I went out of my front door to go to work, and there beside my sidewalk, on my rosebush, was one solitary yellow rose in bloom. It stayed there, looking so pretty for a several weeks. I believe it was my Daddy letting me know that he is still around, that he is with me as I travel thru this life’s journey. And to share the other interaction, which is by far the most personal one for me…When I was about 10 years old, my Daddy came to visit me. I was standing in the kitchen, watching the steam rise up off of a pot of spaghetti that was cooking on the stove. All of the sudden, there he was, in the steam. Not the young man from the pictures that I had seen all my life, he was a little older, like he would have looked had he lived until that time. He looked very much like my granddaddy, but somehow different. I got to see a glimpse of the man who would have been. I saw him as clear as day, and he spoke to me. He told me to take care of my momma and that he loved me and that he was proud of me. That is the only time, ever, in my life, that I have experienced anything like that. At first, I was afraid, I ran away from the kitchen crying, but when I finally told my momma, she told me that it was okay and that it was a good thing. It is an experience that I will always carry with me. I am very proud to be his daughter. I have a heart for veterans, especially Vietnam veterans. I try, daily, to live the kind of life, and to be the kind of daughter and woman that my daddy would be proud of. I used to think that it would get easier as the years went by, but instead, the older I get, the more I miss him. I think that’s because as I experience life, I come to fully realize all the things that he has missed, all the experiences that he would have had, as a dad, and as a granddad. My relationship with my granddaddy was very special and knowing that my daddy, and my kids, didn't get to experience that hurts my heart. But I have learned to be okay with God's plan. I don't know where or what I would be now, if he had lived, surely my life would have been different. But I am happy with this life. I love my husband and I love my kids and grandkids. I couldn’t imagine my life without them in it. I tried so hard to make something beautiful from the ramblings inside my head, but writing is not my forte’. These things come from my heart and I hope that sharing them can maybe help you to know a little bit of the Daddy that I carry with me in my heart every day. Someone once said that a person never truly dies if we keep their memory alive in our hearts. Well, I don’t have a memory of my own to hold in my heart, so I have adopted small things that people have shared with me over the years and I have concocted my own sort of memory and that will keep him alive and with me for as long as my own heart beats.

    Tonya Dickerson Caldwell, daughter