|GEORGE W. REBARA
|My dad died on the 5th of February, just over a month shy of his 73rd birthday. From what we’ve been told, he died in his sleep. He had been sick for the better part of a year,
with his health faltering in gradual steps, always downward. It’s difficult to watch a decline like that, especially when you only have the opportunity to see your dad once, maybe
twice a year. Under those circumstances the decline doesn’t seem gradual at all, and was often shocking.
My dad was born March 19th, 1934 in Hawaii. Thanks to a mix-up at the hospital, due to a language barrier, my dad’s last name was spelled like the nurses thought they
heard it pronounced; REBARA, instead of Revera. They brought him home in a shoebox. He was an unhealthy baby, a blue baby, and nearly died. His sisters have told me
how they used to rub some concoction onto his chest to help him heal. He lived without any money, but he never ever told me he was poor because they always had food on
the table. His father, Bautista Revera, was a wife beater and an all around woman hater. He used to beat my grandmother, Josephine, nearly to death. My dad grew up on the
mean streets of Hawaii, was in and out of juvenile facilities, and didn’t get educated. At some point in his life, after an extremely horrible experience (and some
encouragement from Uncle Alfred, whom I’m named after) he determined that a change was in order. He joined the only organization that would take him far away from all that
craziness; the US Army.
It was indeed a life altering experience. My dad credits the army for saving his life by giving him direction and purpose. He would eventually see action in Vietnam, deploying
with the 4th Infantry Division in 1966. My dad never recovered from that 12-month tour. The ghosts of his friends haunted him until his last days. He used to tell me all about
his experiences there, but the conversations never finished, they just stopped because he would start to cry. My dad lived through no less then 4 ambushes. Ambushes that
killed not one or two of his friends, but 15 or 20 of them each time. And he left country without one scratch. He would tell me about lying on the ground, bullets hitting all around
him, while he prayed and begged God for his very life. His sister Merci told me several years ago, about how she had met some men who had served with my father in
Vietnam, and how they had called him “the grenade man” because he carried so many grenades. He would use these grenades to throw when they came to areas that were
good ambush points, in an attempt to thwart the ambush and save his men’s lives. I asked him about that, wondering why he’d give away his position on a hunch. He told me
“it didn’t matter because they knew where we were all the time because we were so loud and undisciplined.” My dad, like everyone who goes to war, ended up fighting for his
men more than any particular cause.
After the war he met my mother while a Drill Sergeant at Ft. Ord, California. Dad retired near Ft. Lewis, after 2 tours in Germany, one tour in Korea, one tour in Lebanon, and
one tour in Vietnam. My dad only knew the army, and it pumped through his veins. He was fairly strict about being clean, and chores. He was always telling my brother and I
how important it was to “lead, not follow,” and when we did something he wasn’t happy about, he would say, “You’re a Rebara, you know better.” If he caught us watching TV to
late in the morning, he’d turn it off and say, “Get outside and get dirty and sweaty.” He stressed how important education was, I think because he only earned his GED after he
enlisted. On rainy days he’d force use to write about a subject he’d randomly pick out of the encyclopedia, or he’d ask us where a particular country was in the world, or how
many continents there were, etc. I didn’t like it much at the time, like most kids. It just seemed like he was doing all that just to make my life difficult, or to show us how much
we didn’t know.
It’s not until I became a parent that it all seemed to make sense. I suddenly realized that what my parents were telling me made some sense. More importantly, I realized why
he did what he did, or said what he said. My dad knew that the important things were family, a home, owning property, and just being alive. I never once saw my dad panic, or
get overly excited, nor did I ever see him brag (outside of it being tongue and cheek). He paid no attention, like we do far too much these days, to actors and actresses. God let
him live on when he had determined to let others die, and I believe that dad knew that very well. My dad found happiness in work and taking walks through gardens and
around this town. He was always available to his grandkids and we took dad camping with us at Ipsut Creek in the summers.
Although my dad wasn’t physically around when I was growing up, my brother and I were aware of what he was doing and why he was gone. We needed the money he was
making at a job down in California, but he refused to move us down there because he didn’t want us raised in that area. I’m glad he stuck to his guns because my hometown
was a wonderful place to grow up. It wasn’t easy for him to be away from us, and he paid the price because mom did not agree with the separation at all. He called us all the
time and he visited us two, three times a year, maybe more. He was retired army and he used to catch “hops” from Travis AFB and his flights would arrive just about
everywhere there was a military airbase nearby. Sometimes dad would call from all the way up at Whidbey Island NAS looking for a ride home. Mom would pile us into our old
VW bus, my brother and I standing up in front of the passenger seat, next to each other, holding onto the “o’shit” bar above the glove box, and we’d drive for what seemed like
days to pick him up. Mostly he flew into McChord AFB right here in Tacoma, not nearly as exciting.
There were those times when mom would drive us down to visit dad down in Cali. We did that a few times way back in the seventies. Mom always picked up hitchhikers, to
dads dismay, and she would always end up in the wrong neighborhoods looking for directions. My dad used to get so pissed at her for that. He couldn’t understand how she
never got us all murdered. Dad would always start an argument off with, “Sweetie!” It always sounded nice at first, but it always ended poorly. I remember my dad and mom
arguing most of the time they were together. They were two completely different people. I don’t even think they had one thing in common. But they tried, and I’ll always give
them credit for that. I also remember my mom being a little too quick to pull my brother and I down the street, in a screaming rage, to a neighbor’s house. We must have been
fun to live next too.
My dads legacy would have to be what he instilled in me; honesty, candor, responsibility, a sense of humor, and an appreciation for what’s right and what’s wrong and an even
greater appreciation for getting out and enjoying life. I joined the army myself because of I was so proud of my dad’s service. I figured if my dad did it, it must be worthy of my
time as well. I have never regretted that decision, and I have learned more and seen more than most people do in three lifetimes, all thanks to my dads influence. My dad also
gave me a keen insight into human frailty, by his own example. I had called him from the Vietnam Memorial, in DC, and asked him if there were any names he’d like me to
retrieve from the wall. That was the shortest and saddest conversation I had ever had with my dad. He couldn’t speak and just cried till he hung up the phone.
I’m finding it very difficult to write a blog about my dad. What I mean is, this is not doing his memory any justice. How do you document a father’s life in such a way that fully
explains, to strangers, how he’ll be missed, and how large a hole he leaves on this earth? It’s not fair that a human beings entire experience on this great earth, is now gone. I’
m angry because February 6th will not be a national day of mourning, or something like that, because it should be. Your parents are always there, these larger than life figures
who have guided you, for better or worse, all your life. I knew he was going to die, and I’ve more than a few dead friends, but nothing prepares you for the death of a beloved
parent. So no more Thanksgivings with dad, no more camping with dad, no more speeches from dad. No more dad. Just my pictures, and memories of a lifetime spent with
him. No matter how much I told him I loved him, it just doesn’t seem enough. My dad was just a guy, a regular, hard working, God fearing guy who saw more than his fair
share of death and horror. He was the bravest man I had ever known, and I miss him like crazy.
George W Rebara
SSG, US Army
1934 – 2007
Laid to rest at Mt. Tahoma National Cemetery, Kent, WA, on Friday the 16th, at 1445, with full military honors.