Remembering My Dad on Fathers Day

Above: Dad receiving his gold medal award in Fayetteville, Arkansas

Looking through the day's Facebook posts, I see that a lot of people are wishing their fathers a happy fathers day. For me, its a time to reflect about my late father, Junior Terry Afalla (aka. Dad). Like some dads, my dad never had a successful career in law, owned his own business, or even had a college degree. He grew up in poverty, survived his youthful years as an orphan, got into trouble at times, and then he joined the U.S. Army. This was his only way out because he knew it would make his life, his future better. Back in the day, the benefits of joining the service was one of the best choices to make in life. But there were sacrifices. You'd have be willing to protect your country and put your life on the line even if you had to go to war. Unfortunately, my dad was one of the many men to go to war- several tours of two wars from what I recall.

As time went on, he finally retired after 26 years. As a retired veteran, he always took advantage of what was being offered to him from the Department of Veteran Affairs. In his senior years, he would spend most of his time at his local VA center by participating in various programs such as their music and arts program. He really enjoyed meeting veterans from all walks of life and had made a few friends with many staff members.

One day, his arts instructor encouraged everyone to take part in their National Veterans Creative Arts Festival program. Many veterans would submit their entries in various categories such as creative arts, music, creative writing, dance, etc. They would hold a contest for the local chapters and then the winners would go up against everyone else in the nation. Dad was really excited about this opportunity so he submitted his entry which was a pineapple made of coconut leaves. This is an art form used in Hawaiian crafts based on weaving. To his surprise, he won the local state chapter representing Hawaii and that they would send his pineapple to the 2011 National Veterans Creative Arts Festival Committee where he won a Gold Medal in the category of Original Design in Fiber Arts. They were so impressed of the originality for the fact that it was made out of something organic. On October 17-24, 2011, Dad was sent to Fayetteville, Arkansas to attend the 2011 National Veterans Creative Arts Festival and to be honored and was award the gold medal. They treated him like a celebrity, made sure he had a good time, and even had nurses on staff to take care of these him for any health related needs. They took him on tours, luncheons, various meet-and-greet activities, etc. He was so honored and humbled for this amazing opportunity. 

Above: You can tell the excited he was experiencing when they took this picture of him for the program. 

Participating in the creative arts helps to keep the mind sharp and alert as we age. It prevents laziness because the mind and body need physical exercise.
— Junior Terry Afalla, U.S. Army and National Guard Veteran

Above: This is the famous pineapple made of simple coconut leaves.

Above: The gold medal award from the 2011 National Veterans Creative Arts Festival.

Above: One of the many friends that he made at the event. Dad was always friendly to everyone and made friends very easily with his kind smile and his fun personality. He was always the life of the party.

I'm very fortunate to be given these items (i.e. his gold medal, printed programs from the event, etc.) after his passing on August 5, 2014. If I would ask him what was one of the most memorable moments of his life, he would definitely tell you about how he was honored for his coconut weaved pineapple.

Happy Father's Day Daddy! There hasn't been a day where I haven't thought about you and Mom. I love you and miss you immensely. - Your one and only son, Walter