I am Joanna Hill. I was raised by a Vietnam veteran named James I. McLeroy. My dad was my world and I clung to him and his every word.
I remember growing up knowing what a POW/MIA was, what KIA means and to hate Jane Fonda. I also grew up with a deep respect for my country and above all else MY flag.
I sit here now looking at that flag of respect spread over his coffin and I still hear his voice "Joanna, never let it touch the ground ... keep it clean ... if it is out at dark have a light near it ... never leave it in the rain."
I also remember him hitting the ground to the loud noises of our world and screaming to get down because he thought mortars were falling, and I remember seeing him cry when he came back to himself.
I often wondered if he regretted his time of service. One day I got my answer. Daddy was diagnosed with Agent Orange related cancer. Mom was angry and said, "If she had known then it will kill him all these years later, we would have grown up Canadian."
Daddy put his hand on her arm. "Barbie," he said, "You know I would have never done that. My country called and I was going to answer no matter what. I left behind my wife and newborn daughter to do what my country asked of me."
So what does MY flag mean to me? It is respect and honor, it is men and women who put their lives on the line everyday for my freedom to write this now, and most of all it is James Ira McLeroy - MY FATHER. I will continue his legacy and teach my grandchildren as I taught my own - respect for my country and MY flag.