2003 Papa Bear Awards - Nominated
Best Portrayal of a Canon Character - Crittendon
2003 Papa Bear Awards - Nominated
Best Overall Story
Father's Day 1945. This is yet another Hogan’s Heroes’ Holiday based fan fiction. This story takes place after the events chronicled in our story End Game, but continues character threads begun in our story Games of the Heart. We again do not make any claims on the original Hogan’s Heroes’ characters. All other characters are ours. But again, those characters are free for anyone to use, if you so choose. Our rating for this story would be PG for strong language. Enjoy!
Again special thanks goes to Bianca for beta-reading this effort.
The History of Father's Day.
Mrs. John B. Dodd, of Washington, first proposed the idea of a "Father's Day" in 1909. Mrs. Dodd wanted a special day to honor her father, William Smart. William Smart, a Civil War veteran, was widowed when his wife (Mrs. Dodd's mother) died in childbirth with their sixth child. Mr. Smart was left to raise the newborn and his other five children on a rural farm in eastern Washington State. It was after Mrs. Dodd became an adult that she realized the strength and selflessness her father had shown in raising his children as a single parent.
The first Father's Day was observed on June 19, 1910 in Spokane Washington. At about the same time in various towns and cities across America, other people were beginning to celebrate a "Father's Day." In 1924 President Calvin Coolidge supported the idea of a national Father's Day. Finally in 1966 President Lyndon Johnson signed a presidential proclamation declaring the 3rd Sunday of June as Father's Day.
London, England, Fieldstone Airbase, Debriefing Room C, Friday June 15, 1945, 0900 Hours
The Covert Operation’s Management Team (COMT) was well into the post war debriefings of Papa Bear and his operatives. COMT had only given Major General Robert Hogan and his men a week to recuperate from their incarceration at Stalag 13 before they began the debriefings. COMT had then quickly gone through with the debriefings of almost all of Papa Bear's men. Most were just asked how many missions they were involved in, what those missions were, and what their duties had been at Stalag 13. Then with COMT clearance, medical clearance, and their promotions in hand, these men were already on their way home to their families.
The same was not true for Major General Robert Hogan, the one and only Papa Bear. He had just arrived in Debriefing Room C and was, as yet, alone waiting for another day of question after question to begin. He'd been locked into the same routine for a few weeks now. Hell. I understand the need for these interviews, but this is getting old. Sitting here, day after day, hour after hour, answering the same bloody questions.
Damn. It has been so hectic this past month -- And what? You were expecting a vacation? -- Shut up.
I can’t believe that I've already said final goodbyes to almost all of my men. The only ones now still at Fieldstone are my operation’s staff and my barracks’ commanders. But thank God, it’s almost over for them as well. I was promised by COMT that the rest of my guys would be on their way home by this Sunday. I’m so happy for them. They’ll finally all get to see their families. We’ve planned a celebration for tomorrow night -- a final good bye.
Wow. That will leave me alone here at Fieldstone. I can’t imagine what that will be like. Not seeing any of those familiar faces. Well I’ll just have to keep busy getting ready for my new position as Military Governor. Not that I haven’t already been kept busy doing that and doing all those damn press interviews about Papa Bear’s organization. Ugh. Enough already.
Not to mention that I have surgery scheduled for next Wednesday. Boy, I'd give anything to wake from surgery and see the concerned faces of Kinch, Newkirk, LeBeau and Carter. But, I can't, and won’t, ask them to stay this time. They deserve to go home and see their families, not stay and coddle their former commanding officer. God, did I actually just admit to needing coddling? No. Never. -- Well maybe, just a little. The idea of yet another surgical procedure still gives me the willies. I guess I should just be glad that Beth and Joe will be nearby.
Just then General Michael Simpson entered Debriefing Room C interrupting Hogan's meandering thoughts. Rob Hogan looked up startled at the General. "What are you doing here Mike? I thought I graduated to the second team," Hogan asked a little sarcastically. "Don't tell me I have to repeat the last few weeks."
Simpson’s face showed no expression when he said, "No Rob. You don't. I just came here to tell you something that I thought you would want to know."
Hogan couldn't read the General's face and got very nervous. "What's the problem Mike? Is it my guys? I'm sure I can work out any difficulties," he said quickly.
"No Rob. That's not it. I'm sorry. There's nothing wrong. I just wanted to let you know that official word has come down that Colonel Rodney Crittendon will be posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross for bravery. They took your recommendation very seriously," Simpson said as his expression turned sad and he shook his head negatively. "Such a shame. Rodney was a good guy -- Granted -- The poor bastard should never have been in a military uniform. He should have stayed a professor at Oxford University where he belonged. But he died bravely and I guess there’s always something to be said for that."
Hogan turned a pained expression away from Michael Simpson. Oh God. Crittendon was a professor at Oxford University? I knew he didn't belong in the military, but I also had never thought about what he might have done in civilian life. A professor? An absentminded professor? Fits him like a glove. God, I’m so sorry. What the hell were you doing in Germany Rodney?
"Wouldn't you agree Rob?" Simpson had asked, but continued when Rob didn’t respond. "Anyway, Rodney's medal will be delivered to his family in Oxford. Actually it's only his dad now, a retired Group Captain Wallace Crittendon. Rodney had no other family," Simpson paused. "Well. I just thought you'd want to know." Simpson with his expression still sad, turned quickly to leave.
Simpson almost made it to the door before Hogan had recovered from his funk enough to respond. "Hey Mike. Wait. How well did you know Rodney?" Hogan asked genuinely curious. But he was also acutely aware that Simpson had been holding back his emotions when discussing Rodney.
Simpson turned slowly back to face the other man. "Actually Rob. I knew his whole family. Early in my career, I was stationed here in London. It was before WWI. I had met Wallace Crittendon, his wife Laura, and their son Rodney. They sort of took me in. I was just a youngster myself, but I had ten years on Rodney. At the time, I really wanted nothing to do with Rodney. He was a just a young kid and a real pain in the ass."
Simpson paused, shaking his head. "But what I remember most about him… was that the man was a literary genius… Did you know that a few years back he was up for a Pulitzer for his published poetry? On top of that… he and his mother had this overwhelming passion for horticulture… Just amazing... The one thing though that I had never expected him to do, was join the military. But he did. Can you believe that he gave up a full-professorship at Oxford and chose instead to follow in his father's footsteps? And goddam it, look where that got him," Simpson said sadly.
"I'm sorry Mike," Hogan responded wistfully. "More sorry than you can know." Hogan realized that he had to do more than just know that Rodney had gotten the Victoria Cross. "Would it be possible for me to hand deliver the medal to Rodney’s father? I would really like to explain to his dad what happened that night. Do you think that his father would even want to talk to me?" Hogan asked quietly.
"Rob. That would be very nice of you," Simpson began. "I've talked to Wallace a couple of times since Rodney died. He's had a hard time accepting Rodney’s death. Without a body… Well at first, you hope beyond hope that it's not true. You know? Then of course, reality reasserts itself when a longtime friend hands you your son’s dog tags. Damn, it hurt so badly when I couldn’t even tell Wallace how Rodney died. All I could tell him was that Rodney was shot and killed while escaping from Stalag 5," Simpson paused and looked downcast at the floor. "But, at least now with the full disclosure of Papa Bear’s organization…"
Simpson paused again and looked up into the eyes of the now infamous Papa Bear. And for the first time realized just how young the new Major General was. Simpson could easily see the pained expression behind the young man’s eyes. "I know Wallace would appreciate you taking the time Rob, especially since you were the last person to talk to Rodney. But, I know Wallace doesn’t know the full story and he is certainly not expecting the Victoria Cross for his son. I had just been waiting for word on the medal before going to talk to Wallace myself. But, all of this might just be better coming from you. So, if you don’t mind, I will leave the ball in your court," Simpson said. "But I can call him for you and let him know that you, as a friend of Rodney’s, wanted to visit with him -- And I do realize that you don’t have much free time -- So, would this Sunday be okay?" asked Simpson almost relieved as he hadn’t known what to say to Wallace Crittendon. The fact that Hogan would even offer to do this impressed him. He again was awed with the steadfastness of Robert Hogan’s character.
"Thanks Mike. I would appreciate your playing interference. This Sunday would be fine," Hogan said softly. "Just let me know what time." Rob watched as Michael Simpson started to leave. "Mike," Hogan called out as an afterthought. "Can I get a hold of Rodney's records? I need to find out more about him before I can be that ‘friend’." Simpson just nodded and then left the debriefing room without another word. Rob cupped his hands over his face and quickly rubbed his eyes. Damn. Why did you agree to do this? How the Hell do you tell a father about the death of his son? How do you explain to that father that his son died saving your life and lives of others? How do you hide the guilt that you feel? Will the truth ever really ease the pain and grief of a father who has lost his only son?
Before Hogan could continue with more guilty musings, members of COMT interrupted, signaling the beginning of another long day of debriefings. As the morning wore on though, Rob’s mind kept drifting as he contemplated how he would face Rodney’s father on Sunday. His heart almost skipped a beat when he came to realize that Sunday June 17 was Father’s Day. How can you be so cruel Hogan? Maybe you should ask Simpson to make the meeting for another day? God damn it. You don’t even know if they celebrate Father’s Day in Great Britain on the same day or even if they celebrate it at all. Just go see Wallace Crittendon. You need to tell him your story probably as much as he needs to hear it. Everything will be fine. Yeah. Yeah. But, it’s certainly not what I would consider the proper way to celebrate a holiday. Damn.
"That will be all for today sir," Major Richard Nash said with a voice raised in frustration. The General has been distracted all morning and hasn’t been paying the least bit of attention to me. Nash noticed that his raised voice had finally jolted the Major General from his reverie. So, since Nash now had the man’s attention, he decided to cut short the day’s debriefing. "We can continue this on Monday. We still should be able to wrap this up by Tuesday afternoon sir. I know you have surgery scheduled for Wednesday morning," Nash said in a more polite tone. The last thing I really need is to have the Major General angry with me. My career would be in the toilet before I could blink.
Rob finally realized that he had not been very cooperative all morning. "I’m sorry Major. I have a lot on my mind today. It’s probably better that we cut it short. I promise by Monday that I will give you all the help that I can," Hogan said and left the debriefing room quickly not waiting on a response from any of the COMT members present in the room.
Rob then retired to his newly assigned housing on base. With the rest of his men leaving in the next couple of days… Rob had finally accepted housing that suited his new rank. He had, up until that point, refused to be separated from his men. That was until those men -- those men still at Fieldstone, that is -- ganged up on him and forced him to move into the new housing. And I thought I was stubborn. What a scene that could have been! Thank God, I don’t embarrass easy.
Rob Hogan had a wide grin on his face as he approached his apartment. He was remembering the day, not too long ago, that his men had slipped him a mickey and shanghaied him while he was sleeping. They carried him across the compound to this apartment and unceremoniously dumped him into bed. When I woke, there was a contingent of my men still in the apartment who told me, in no uncertain terms, that they no longer needed me on their backs… and that they could do quite fine without me. They tried to look so serious. I started to laugh, but surrendered to their ‘wisdom’. What was worse was that I had to then sheepishly admit to Colonel Wright and General Creighton that I had changed my mind about the housing. When I told them, they both burst out laughing. I couldn’t believe it! It seemed that they were both ‘in on’ the idea of relocating a certain Major General/Military Governor. Wow, who woulda thunk it? Though I guess, after all the grief I gave them both on my arrival in London… they deserved a chance to get back at me. They are all lucky I didn’t just decide to pull rank, is all. Yeah, like they were really afraid that was going to happen.
Upon entering his apartment, Rob’s mood quickly became sullen. On the floor, just behind the door, was a pile of correspondence: letters, official papers, notes and what looked like Rodney’s military record. All of it had all been slipped under his door after he had left his quarters that morning. He heaved a sigh, gathered it all up and placed it on the table in his kitchen.
He decided to get something to eat before tackling the pile. Then with tuna fish sandwich and coffee in-hand Rob sat down at the kitchen table and began perusing the correspondence. General Simpson had indeed left Crittendon's military record; along with a note of the time that Rob was to meet Wallace Crittendon. Okay, so noon on Sunday it is. Rob then sighed and pushed Rodney’s record out-of-the-way. I’ll just read that later.
Kinch had also left a note along with a pile of official papers. He needed Rob’s signature on all the paperwork. Poor Kinch, he’s been working his tail off too. Tomorrow will be the last day we’ll see each other until we both make our return to Germany. He’s trying desperately to wrap everything up. Not to mention he’s also in charge of our little farewell party tomorrow night. God. What would I do without him? He has left nothing to chance. His note even clearly spells out the time and the place of our little get together. Knowing him… all the guys got the same note. Rob read through all the paperwork, made some changes and signed each sheet where Kinch had marked the location for his signature. Then Rob put them aside to have them ready for Kinch in the morning.
With all the official correspondence out of the way, Rob just stared at what was left in the pile. A hand written note and three letters with return addresses of Connecticut, USA. He picked up the three letters. The first was from his parents, the second from his youngest brother John, and the third from his sister Susan. He really wanted to read them, but he knew what they contained, still more nervous correspondence asking him if he was all right. Everything he had received from them since he arrived in London was the same. I want to kill my brother Joe. He told the whole family about my needing surgery and about my impaired health almost as soon as I had arrived in London. Granted I’ve since tried to calm their fears, but they just don't believe me, especially since they found out that I never told them about my being Papa Bear. I’m just glad Joe didn’t tell them everything.
I am planning on spending some time in Connecticut with them before heading back to Germany in mid-August. I’ve already gained most of the weight back that I had lost… and if all goes well with the surgery… hopefully my family will never be able to tell the full extent of the injuries I sustained during the last six weeks of the war. Rob pushed aside those letters as well. He just couldn’t bring himself to read them. Not just yet.
He then smiled warmly as he read the handwritten note left in front of him. It was from Beth. The only woman he’d ever known that could truly send his heart beating wildly in his chest. She wanted to know when they could get together for dinner. She was offering a home cooked meal and a not just a little hint of romance. I’m sorry Beth. It’s going to have to be Sunday night. You’ve been so patient. I know it has been a roller coaster ride for you -- ‘Rob you're alive! -- What do you mean you were not just a POW?’ -- ‘Well Beth. You see. I was a spy. Now I’ll be heading back to Germany as the Military Governor representing the United States government.’ God it was so hard to explain everything to her. She's been just incredible though. And we've even been able to rekindle the relationship we had before I was shot down. I have fallen in love with her all over again.
You know what Hogan. Don’t put it off any longer. Ask her to marry you. Do it Sunday. Oh God. That means you’ll have to get a ring tomorrow. It’s okay. You have time. Don’t panic. Please say yes Beth. I hope you are willing to go on a whirlwind wedding and honeymoon. I just don’t have much time before needing to be back in Germany. Please, please say yes. It took a couple of minutes, but as soon as Rob stopped hyperventilating, he wrote a note to Beth asking her if Sunday night would be all right. And that he thought a home cooked meal sounded wonderful. He wanted to say so much more, but he couldn’t think of anything. He just ended the note with an ‘I love you’. The rest will just have to be a surprise.
Rob decided to take a walk across the base and leave the note for Beth in her mail slot. She and some of the other civilian nurses had been sharing quarters on base for some time now. Most had lost their homes during the raids. The command personnel at Fieldstone had thought it more expedient to have as many nurses available as possible, so had offered housing to whoever needed it. There were still quite a few on base, even with the war being over.
After Rob returned home, he settled in his living room and into the large cushioned chair that he had quickly become very fond of. So very different from the damn cots and wooden stools I've spent over three years on. Rob knew that he should read through the letters his family sent. Just what I had thought, all 3 letters full of concern for my health. Don’t be so petty. They really care about you. I know. I just never wanted to burden them with my problems. But I guess that’s what families are for. I just can’t tell them everything. I just can’t. Rob knew he would respond to these letters as he already had in his previous letters home, trying to reassure them. But he decided to hold off writing until after the surgery. Then at least I can give them good news.
As he put those letters away, Hogan realized that he could no longer put off reading Rodney’s military record. He knew that he wouldn’t have much time tomorrow. I just can’t go to meet Rodney’s father and not really know anything about Rodney. Our whole relationship was so very offbeat and impersonal. I never once went to look beyond the man’s outward façade. I hadn’t really wanted to. Honestly. I just never thought there was much more to the man than his bumbling, absentmindedness. How wrong was I? Just looking through his record now…God the man aced every written exam he ever took…He made Colonel very quickly… I’m so sorry Rodney.
You know, you can be a real asshole at times Hogan.
It’s too bad you never learned to stop judging books by their cover…you did it to Crittendon and you did it to Klink. Two men. Two very different men. And yet, two men so very much alike. Neither man should have been in the military… They both would have been far better off if they never signed on… Rodney could have stayed a professor and Wilhelm… definitely an accountant. Two innocent men. Two men trying desperately to do the right thing. Two men just trying to survive the war in one piece -- But in the end, only one endured.
You should have done more Hogan. Rodney didn’t deserve what happened that night. You should have done more. With that thought, Robert Hogan laid his head back in his cushioned chair. He ran his hands through his hair and then rubbed his eyes with the palms of both hands, desperately trying to stop the stinging. God. I’m so glad that the war is over.
It wasn’t too long before the Rob fell into a restless sleep.
England, on the road from London to Oxford, Father’s Day, Sunday June 17, 1945, 1100 Hours
Rob Hogan was so very glad that his meeting with Wallace Crittendon was for noon. It certainly was a blessing, as he hadn’t gotten much sleep last night. He had gotten up very early yesterday morning to make sure he had time to pick up Rodney’s medal from General Simpson, and then he spent a good portion of the day pushing-paper. Then he had to sit through two more interviews with the press. Then he rushed all over London to find the right engagement ring for Beth. And then he attended the somewhat wild and out of control ‘goodbye’ party thrown for him and his men. Between the drinking and the emotional goodbyes, he was completely exhausted. And I honestly didn’t drink much, but I couldn’t avoid it completely. The men kept making toast after toast. It got to the point where I was getting the poor potted plant in the corner of the room really drunk.
Rob had already decided that he was going to drive himself to Oxford and it had turned out to be a beautiful sunny Sunday. The morning drive from London was very peaceful. But it truly did nothing to relieve the butterflies in Rob’s stomach. He was so nervous. He didn’t know what to say to Rodney’s father. He even checked his uniform’s inside jacket pocket for the fifth time, to make sure Rodney’s medal was still there.
It was just before noon when Hogan drove past the University and into Oxford proper. The directions supplied to him by Mike Simpson were perfect. He quickly found the Crittendon home, a small cottage on the edge of town. The cottage sat on a decent expanse of land. Luckily it hadn’t sustained too much damage during the war. The property was dotted with beautiful gardens and the landscaping was immaculate.
Rob pulled the car off the road in front of the cottage, trying to get far enough off the road, but still not hurt the landscape. As he took the key from the ignition, his stomach bottomed out and he sat quietly a moment so it would settle. Pull it together man. He took a deep breath and got out of the car. Rob approached the cottage using the cobble-stoned walkway from the street. As he reached the front door, Rob removed his cap and placed it under his left arm and knocked on the door.
Hogan once again checked his pocket as he waited for Wallace Crittendon to answer his door. He barely finished checking when the door opened and a man who he had no doubt was Rodney’s father answered the door. The man could have been Rodney’s twin brother, if you added 30 years.
"Yes," Wallace asked nervously after taking a deep breath. He was somewhat surprised by the man at his door. Almost like he had seen this man before, but couldn’t place him.
"Good afternoon sir. I’m Robert Hogan. I was a friend of Rodney’s. Mike Simpson was supposed to contact you about my visit. I hope I’m not intruding," Hogan said when Wallace appeared a little surprised.
"No, of course not. I’m sorry. I was expecting you. I’m Wallace Crittendon. Please. Please come in…" Wallace Crittendon began quickly assessing his visitor’s rank insignia. "General," he finished holding out his hand to shake the General’s. A 3-star American General?
Rob returned the handshake and said, "Thank you sir. But please call me Rob. I would never want to stand on ceremony when visiting a friend’s home."
"And the reverse is also true Rob. Please call me Wallace. Won’t you join me?" Wallace asked waving his hand in the direction of what looked to be the kitchen. "I thought we might be more comfortable on the patio. It’s right this way, through the kitchen. I’ve already set out some refreshments. If you would like something else…" Wallace’s voice paused in question.
"No. I’m sure everything will be fine Wallace," Rob answered. "After you." He followed Rodney’s dad quickly through the small cottage out onto the patio. He tried to quickly take in all that he could of the small cottage, but was not able to see much. But on reaching the patio, he was amazed at how beautiful it was. As perfectly landscaped as the rest of the property. "You have a beautiful home Wallace. And from what I’ve seen of the gardens surrounding your home," Rob said shaking his head in wonderment. "Just beautiful."
"Thank you Rob," Wallace said as he indicated a patio chair for Rob to sit down in. "But I can't take all the credit for the gardens. They were Rodney and my wife Laura's passion, not mine. I've just taken to maintaining them. Something to keep an old man busy." Wallace poured some tea for both himself and his guest, sat opposite to where Rob had, and continued, "Rodney and his mother were so incredibly passionate about the gardens. As for me, I was a military man. No sense of style what-so-ever," he laughed.
Rob smiled and agreed. "I can certainly understand. If you can't put a uniform on it..." Rob had started but stopped as Wallace laughed out loud.
"So. You do understand," Wallace continued. "I had such a hard time fathoming why having your house featured in horticulture magazines around the world was so important. For quite a stretch, there were always photographers here. Between Rodney and Laura, one of the two of them was forever being interviewed." Wallace paused and looked around the patio. "Of course, that was a long time ago now. But keeping the gardens up has been comforting to me. Lots of good memories there."
Rob tried to maintain the smile. "Yes. I can see that. You've done a wonderful job. They are still very impressive," Rob assured and glanced away as a silence fell, neither man knowing what to say next.
Wallace was not blind to the fact that his guest had more on his mind than just gardens. So Wallace was the first to break the silence, for he really needed to know how this man became a 'friend' of Rodney's. "So Rob," Wallace began but waited until the younger man met his gaze. "Tell me how a 3-Star General in the US Army became a 'friend' to my son, a Colonel in the RAF? I assume that is why you came here."
"Yes. It is. I'm very sorry Wallace," Rob began. "I had hoped that I could say what I needed to… quickly." Rob paused, took a deep breath and began again. "There is a long complicated story as to how your son and I met. Honestly, our paths tended to entangle, rather than mesh together. But the reason I'm here today is to give you the truth about Rodney's death. Up until this point you were misinformed. The work that brought us together was classified until just a month ago," Hogan sighed and stood from the chair. He began to pace.
"Continue Rob, I do understand the meaning of ‘classified’," Wallace offered quietly. Then as if a bolt of lightning struck him, Wallace finally realized who the man pacing his patio was. He now knew where he’d seen this man before. His picture had appeared in almost every newspaper article related to the underground operation that he had run during the war. Papa Bear.
Rob stopped pacing and came to face Rodney’s father. "Wallace. Both your son and I were part of the Allied underground network in Germany. Your son was killed during a mission. Rodney had volunteered to escort five young children safely to a rendezvous with my men and I. The children’s parents had been brutally murdered by the Gestapo, but the children had managed to get away with some very important information that needed to get to me. When my men and I arrived at the rendezvous, we found that the Gestapo had overrun Rodney’s position. He and the children had been followed. My men and I infiltrated the area. But as I unknowingly approached the children’s location, your son willing gave himself up. He wanted to distract the Gestapo officer, who he had seen was fast approaching that same position. Rodney wanted to make sure that I knew where those children were."
Rob paused slightly to glance at Rodney's father. Wallace just had a pained expression on his face, but was looking intently at Rob. "I'm sorry. It was then that one of the children panicked. It all happened so quickly. I threw myself on top of the child and Rodney lunged at the Gestapo officer who had turned to fire on my position. Rodney was able to delay the Gestapo officer from firing on the child and me. But by the time I had regained my balance and returned fire, it was too late. Rodney was already dead." Liar. This man just doesn’t need to know that his son lingered in pain.
Rob stopped any more explanation as he watched Wallace Crittendon get up from his chair and walk quietly away until he reached a bed of roses. The older man just stood quietly and fingered one of the roses. The silence dragged on for what seemed an eternity.
Rob finally continued softly, "Wallace. Your son saved my life. And I don't know how I can ever ease the grief that you must feel. But I need to be completely honest with you. You need to know that it was my decision to leave Rodney's body behind. We had no means of returning him to London."
After a moment, Wallace turned back toward the American, his eyes bright with unshed tears. "As one military man to another General, I would like you to tell me two things: What happened to that Gestapo officer? -- and -- Did you leave Rodney's body for the Germans to dispose of?" His gaze bore into that of the American General's. Wallace was impressed when the man did not flinch.
"As one military man to another sir..." Hogan began. "That Gestapo officer never again saw the light of day. And I ordered that Rodney's body be burned sir. I would not have left him in the hands of the Germans."
The retired Group Captain just nodded at the American General and again turned away. Again the silence was palatable. But soon Wallace turned back to Rob. "Do you have any children Rob?" he asked quickly.
"No I don't," Rob responded quietly.
"Then I don't expect you to understand how a father feels after hearing what you’ve had to say," Wallace began. "I just hope you can now answer my questions as a father, as forthrightly as you did my questions as an officer."
"I will do my best…," Rob answered quickly choking back the ‘sir’ and finished with, "Wallace."
"Thank you. That is all I ask," Wallace stated. "Rob, I really need to know… was Rodney’s death quick? -- or -- did he suffer at the end?" Wallace saw Rob flinch ever so slightly. It was the same flinch he had seen when Rob announced Rodney’s death at the hands of the Gestapo. "And before you answer Rob, I do expect the truth… You see… I’m not an innocent." Like Rodney. "I’m a fairly quick study of people." Wallace then watched as the American's stoic expression just melted away. Oh Lord. You had to know. You couldn’t just leave it be. Can’t you see how hard it is on this young man? Yeah, but this man still has his life to look forward too. My son does not.
"I’m very sorry Wallace," Rob began sadly. "It was something I just didn’t think you needed to hear. Rodney survived for a short time. He had taken a bullet to the chest. The wound was beyond our ability to deal with. I tried to comfort him as much as possible, but there was nothing I could do. You need to know though, that your son died courageously. Even as he came to realize his death was imminent, Rodney’s only thoughts were for the safety of those children and my men." Rob paused and lowered his gaze. "I’m very sorry."
Wallace Crittendon placed a hand on Robert Hogan’s shoulder as he walked by. Just a quick pat, before he sat back down in a patio chair. He covered his face with his hands and sat quietly for a few moments. All of his deep-seated fears for Rodney came rushing to the surface. My son was not a military man. And would never be one. He was an academic. An English professor. A horticulturist and a writer of poetry. In all these professions, he was exceptional. Lord God, forgive me. But ever since Rodney enlisted... I expected to get news of his death. I always assumed he would die alone though. As a fighter pilot, he would be responsible for his own life and no one else’s. I knew my son. He had never dealt with pressure well. He had a hard time remembering his own name when the pressure was on. He was far better off alone, no one else depending on him. But to think that he could have done what Rob just told me. Was it really possible?
Wallace’s thoughts were interrupted by Rob’s hand on his shoulder. "This is for you."
Wallace removed his hands from his face after rubbing his eyes. He couldn’t believe what he saw on the table in front of him. "What’s this?" he asked not taking his eyes off what he already knew was a Victoria Cross, a medal awarded for bravery under fire.
"It’s Rodney's," Rob said without any other explanation. Retired Group Captain Wallace Crittendon would certainly already know what the box contained. "I recommended Rodney for it the day that he died. It wasn’t until just recently that the government actually looked seriously at it. It wasn’t until after Allied High Command’s full disclosure of my underground operation that they even accepted my recommendation. But their approval came quickly after that. I wanted to bring it to you personally. I only hope it can mean something to you," Rob said quietly.
Wallace smiled up at the American as a sense of relief washed over him. "Please Rob. Sit," he said indicating the other chair. "You can’t know how much this means to me… It means that you honestly didn’t come here just to placate the fears of an old man… It means that my son did die bravely… It also means that my son didn’t foolishly…" Wallace stopped quickly and tried to change the subject. But anything he tried to say got caught in his throat. Then with his eyes bright, Wallace stood from the table, turned and walked away, covering his mouth with his hand as if he couldn’t trust himself to speak.
Rob really didn’t know what to say to the older man. I can’t possibly tell this man that for most of the time that I knew his son… that his son was an eccentric. How do you say that? Although, I think Wallace already knew that. The man is sharp. I doubt much has ever gotten the better of him. Except maybe… his love for his son. Rob stared at Wallace's back for a long moment and decided to just broach, what he hoped would be, a more pleasant subject. "Mike Simpson told me just a couple of days ago that Rodney had been up for the Pulitzer Prize in literature a few years back... for some of his published poetry… Would you have any of those publications here Wallace? I would enjoy seeing them," offered Rob.
Wallace was still embarrassed by his own doubts where his son was concerned. He knew that Robert Hogan had seen that embarrassment. But here the man still stands, offering an old man a graceful way out of his embarrassment. Wallace turned and walked toward the American. He grasped the younger man's shoulder tightly and said, "You're a good man Rob. Thank you. I most certainly have those publications. I know Rodney would have enjoyed sharing them with you." As he removed his hand from Rob's shoulder he continued, "Please come with me. Everything is just inside. In the library, this way."
Rob followed Rodney's dad into the little cottage's library. It took up most of two rooms. Both men spent the next couple of hours perusing the library shelves. Both Wallace and Rob had relaxed enough in each other's company that those hours had flown by. Wallace had quickly become the proud father, showing off all of Rodney's many academic accomplishments. Rob couldn’t have been more impressed.
Soon though Rob had made his goodbyes to Wallace Crittendon. He spent the drive back from Oxford in quiet contemplation. You know Rodney… You really should have just stayed at Oxford. From what I’ve seen today, there appears to be no limit to what you could have accomplished there. Damn. And then having seen the pain mixed with pride in your father’s eyes… well it’s something that I’m not sure I could have watched from my own father. So honestly… I can only thank you… because no one in my family had to see that.
I owe you one Rodney.
London, England, Fieldstone Airbase, Quarters of Major General Robert Hogan, Father’s Day, Sunday June 17, 1945, 1615 Hours
As Rob Hogan reached his apartment, having returned the car that he had borrowed to the motor pool, he couldn’t help but notice the three letters from his family still sitting on the coffee table in his living room. You never even gave a thought to writing your dad for father’s day. All you were thinking about was waiting until after the surgery. Don’t be a jerk. At least send him a telegram. You have time. It’s still early on Father’s Day in Connecticut.
Rob sat at the kitchen table and began to write down what he wanted the telegram to say. He knew he would have to run out quickly to get the message sent, but he wanted to be sure to get the words right. Ten scribbled notes later:
Happy Father’s Day!
I love you.
Hey, wish me luck.
I am asking Beth to marry me tonight.
Here’s hoping she says yes!
And that I can be half the husband/father you are.
See you in a month.
Love to Mom, John, Sue, Ed and Stephen.
A nervous young man, his palms sweaty and his heart pounding, knocked on the door of his girl firend’s apartment. He was carrying a box of long stem roses in one hand and an engagement ring in the other. As the young woman opened the door, she gasped in surprise when she realized the true meaning for the young man’s visit.
"Will you…?" was all the young man could say, before he was wrapped in her warm embrace and kiss. The flowers crushed between them dropped to the floor as the young man returned the embrace. For a long moment, all was forgotten, until the young woman finally released him. The young man stood bewildered at the door and watched as the young woman gently picked up the flowers and then took his hand to guide him into her living room. She then took the box containing the ring, which he still had clenched in his grasp.
"Was that a…?" he started to say as he released his hold on the box, but again was not able to finish his thought. He was overwhelmed with mind-numbing passion as her warm smiling eyes connected with his.
"Oh God! Yes. That was a yes!" the young woman exclaimed embarrassed. She gently placed the flowers and ring on the coffee table behind her. She tenderly took hold of her young man’s face, and as she looked deeply into his eyes she said, "I love you Rob. I will marry you. There is nothing I want more!" She then kissed him passionately.
When she finally let Rob breathe again, his legs almost gave out. He was so consumed with joy that he was almost speechless. "Oh Beth. I love you," he stammered breathless. Then as he regained his composure, he reached for the box that contained the engagement ring. He removed the ring and placed it carefully on her finger. Rob then knelt down in front of Beth, kissed her hand tenderly and said, "Now you can’t change your mind." Rob then glanced sheepishly up at Beth.
Beth smiled back, kissed him on the forehead and said, "I won’t. Believe me, I won’t."
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