Honoring Our Father's Legacy
Two sons whose strength and courage lie rooted in memories of their dad
How does a man honor a father he knows more from other people's memories than from personal experience? How does a man honor a father who looms so large in his thoughts and dreams, yet who occupied so little time in his life?
Those are thoughts of Tyrone "Ty" Foster, in his book, "Navigate to Greatness." Those are the thoughts he has contemplated over and over since his father paid the ultimate sacrifice in service to his country.
"I remember that day, 'the incident,' they call it, like it was yesterday," he said in an interview. "I remember the news was on. I remember my mom saying, 'Guys, go watch the news.' Now to this day, I'm pretty sure she knew what was going on, but I go over to the TV in my sisters' room and I'm looking and my sister goes, 'That's Dad's ship.'"
The kids saw images of their father's ship, guided-missile frigate USS Stark (FFG 31), in the Persian Gulf with smoke billowing from two gaping portside holes. Only hours before, an Iraqi fighter jet had fired on Stark in an attack that claimed the lives of 37 Sailors, including Senior Chief Quartermaster Vernon T. Foster Sr.
I just remember being confused, and then almost as immediately as I saw that, we got a knock at the door. [After] that knock ... it was the scream I remember. My mom screamed because she knew what that meant. I didn't know what that meant." - Ty Foster
Five-year-old Ty and his 2-year-old brother, Vernon T. Foster II, soon realized their dad wouldn't be coming home. They wondered why their father had to die.
"Growing up without my dad, given the circumstances, the way he passed, I think when I was younger I would be kind of frustrated," said Vernon.
"There was a lot of anger and frustration that maybe I unleashed through my behavior, like being the class clown or acting out in class, or always being in the principal's office. So I think I internalized this as like a fight, like it was me against the world. It's not fair that I grew up without my father."
Following the tragedy, both Vernon and Ty experienced many feelings typically associated with tragic loss of a loved one: confusion, sorrow, grief, anger. And the questions they asked often yielded more questions than answers.