My Father was a Great Man
Memorial Speech Given by Skip Halthen
Welcome and Thanks: Thank you for praying, for calling/texting/emailing, for giving gifts and food, supporting my parents and family, and especially for being here today or watching over livestream for those unable to be here in person. The support I have witnessed for my family has been incredible to see, and I am very grateful.
I have been encouraged to keep this somewhat short, as I could stand here for hours, tell stories, and speak about my dad. While I think my father would tell me something along the lines of “Son, they are all here today for me, so they are just going to have to sit and listen to what you have to say.” I will do my best to be fairly brief.
My Father was a Great Man. This morning I am going to share what I saw in my father in my 33 years of being his son, and why I believe full heartedly that statement to be true.
From day one in Army basic training, each recruit is given a “knowledge book” of things we are expected to study and memorize. At any time, a drill Sergeant may ask a recruit to recite any of these things. One of the primary and core pieces of knowledge we were tested on were the “Army Values.” These seven values are considered the key pillars, characteristics, or traits of a great man or woman, and a great Soldier. These values are what are expected of a US Army Soldier both in and out of uniform. While the Army has tailored these values to a Soldier's life, I believe that they are equally as important in anyone's life. My dad exhibited and exemplified each and everyone of these seven values throughout his life.
The First Value is Loyalty. My father was forever loyal. He was loyal to my mom, our family, his friends, and his faith. He was a devoted husband, father, and servant to Jesus Christ and God. He was humble enough to know he was flawed, and admit his mistakes while seeking forgiveness from both God and whomever he believed he had wronged. His devotion to my mother knew no bounds.
I remember when I was younger the times I may say just one too many things, or have some sarcastic comeback to my mother. That was a mistake I very, very quickly learned from. Never, ever, talk back to mom... at least not when Dad was around. He was loyal to her. While she was always number one after God, that loyalty applied to everyone in his life. My dad was loyal.
The Second Value is Duty. I played baseball from the time I was 5 until I had graduated high school. As you grow up, people always ask the, “what do you want to be when you grow up?” question. My answer was always, play baseball. It was my junior year in high school that I realized that wasn't what I wanted to do when I grow up anymore. At the time, I saw this as my “early retirement” from professional sports, but looking back it is probably a good thing that wasn't my dream anymore.
I decided that if baseball wasn't what I wanted to do in college and beyond, then there is no reason for me to put in all the hours and work to play my senior year of high school. When I informed my parents of this stunning realization, my father taught me the importance of duty. What it meant being a part of a team, and why quitting on my team may have seemed like the easier path, but wasn't the right path. It took many long conversations with both my mom and dad, but I learned an incredibly important lesson. It may not have been what I thought I wanted to do, but it was the right thing to do in order to fulfill my commitment and support my team. I am forever grateful for playing that last season and the greater lesson he taught me. My dad understood duty.
The Third Value is Respect. Respect is a word I remember my father using from as young as I can remember. He would constantly teach me to always respect others. He taught me that things I perceived a certain way could be interpreted differently by someone else, and he always told me that the way others perceived things was important. He taught me that sometimes it is better to listen to others, instead of speaking. He taught me that other opinions and beliefs are just as important as my own.
I learned that I should be confident in my opinions and beliefs, but conscious, aware, and kind to those who may disagree. He instilled in me the importance of understanding how others feel, and to not just think about myself. He taught me patience, kindness, and above all else, humility. My father taught me that no matter how “right” you think you are, if you aren't willing to listen to others it doesn't matter how right you are. He always taught me that it is both important, and ok to admit when you were wrong.
One phrase I remember so clearly hearing over and over again growing up was, “If you borrow something from someone, always return it in the same or better condition than when you received it.” It was about respecting other people. My father was respectful.
The Fourth Value is Selfless Service. I feel this is something that was evident to anyone whoever met my father. Growing up, my dad would drive an old beat up Honda Civic or something similar so that he could buy a nicer and safer vehicle for my mom to drive with us kids in the car. He would work long hours, and I honestly cannot remember a single thing my family purchased that was solely for him, and his Christmas gifts usually consisted only of lots of new ties.
He put aside all selfishness for his family. He would go out of his way for friends or strangers. Regardless of the anxiety it caused to some, he would take homeless people he had just met outside of a hospital to dinner. Not just to buy them food, but to sit down with them and have a meal. He would talk with them, and try to get to know them. He didn't do these things because he wanted recognition, and had nothing to gain. He did it because my father had a heart and soul for Jesus, and wanted to love these individuals.
I don't remember how old I was, but I was young, maybe 8 or 9. I was riding in the car with my dad, I don't remember where to, but there was a hitchhiker on the side of the road. Without saying anything to me, my dad pulled over and offered the man a ride. I remember sitting in the back of the car, and this somewhat dirty stranger got into the front passenger seat. Me being the hero I was, I started thinking of what I would do if this stranger suddenly brandished a weapon or threatened us. Most of my plans consisted of unbuckling and jumping out the door.Thankfully, none of those thoughts were needed. My dad struck up a conversation with this man, and I remember that they somehow ended up talking about God and Jesus. I don't remember the details of the conversation, just the topic. My dad dropped this stranger off, and as I got back in the front seat he started driving again. I remember him telling me, “I picked him up because I felt like God was telling me to. Did you notice how quickly we started talking about God and Jesus? Sometimes God will call you to do things, and you just have to trust him.”
I remember thinking, “man, I wish God would talk to me like that!” and I also remember very clearly my dad's last words on that subject... “Don't tell your mother we did that.” My dad was selfless.
The Fifth Value is Honor. As I am sure I will be surpassing the definition of “brief” for most of you, I will make this one short. The Army defines honor as, “A matter of carrying out, acting, and living the values of respect, duty, loyalty, selfless service, integrity and personal courage in everything you do.” My opinion of honor is that it is something earned, not given freely. It isn't something you can award yourself, but a perception and quality that others attribute to you. Honor, and being considered honorable, comes from exhibiting each one of these values in everyday life. My father was honorable.
The Sixth Value is Integrity. This value I consider to be especially important. When I counsel young soldiers and officers, I always tell them that integrity is the most important thing to me. I used to think of integrity as just telling the truth, but in fact it is broader. It means to do what is right, legally and morally as well. As one's integrity grows, so does the trust others place in you. The more choices you make based on integrity, the more this value affects your relationships with family and friends.
My father's integrity was built on the foundation of his faith in our God and Jesus Christ. He lived his life as best as he could following the teachings and the promises of our Father. My father was not a perfect man, even I, his son who respects him more than any man or woman in this world knows that. He also knew that, and would be the first to admit it. He would never shy from the truth, never be afraid of questions of his faith, and never waver from discussion and conversation about it. My dad lived a life of integrity.
The Seventh and Final Value is Personal Courage. The Army defines this value as, “facing fear, danger or adversity.... Both physical and moral.” Every man or woman feels fear, but as many of you may have heard before, courage is acting in the face of fear. I believe my father was a warrior. Not in the physical sense, but as a man in this world. He was a spiritual warrior of God. He was a man who asked God for complete and total healing, and was unshaken in his faith till his last breath. God's answer wasn't what we prayed for, but it was answered. His healing took place on the other side of this world, and he was healed as he was taken before the glory of our God in heaven.
I remember the day my father called me to tell me he had been diagnosed with cancer. I was in Colorado at the time. Talking with my parents wasn't a rare or odd thing, but I knew something bad was coming because I had gotten a message earlier asking if I could talk later that day. THAT was not normal. So as I called and spoke with him, I expected some type of bad news. He seemed hesitant to me, hesitant to say what he wanted to tell me, but I tried to be patient. I don't know, but I imagine that this news he had received from the doctors was probably terrifying, especially since we had no details on if it had spread yet. As he told me the news, the way I felt was that his hesitancy wasn't from his own personal fear, it was because he didn't want to burden me with this news. I didn't feel that he was thinking of himself at all, he just felt bad knowing what it meant to me. My father was a warrior. My father was courageous.
My father was a great man. I have had the privilege of working with, and serving this country with some of what I consider the finest men and women. Some of the strongest and most resilient individuals I know. I have made friendships, in incredibly short amounts of time, that are deeper and stronger because of the circumstances we were in. Friends that I would call brothers or sisters. I am lucky to have a true blood brother and sister that I love so incredibly much. I have an amazing and strong mother who has always been there for me. But there is no man or woman who I love, respect, and will miss more than my dad. My father was a great man