Some moments in life are simply too difficult to describe in words – moments for which we can never be adequately prepared to handle. I recently had one of those moments. Last weekend, I received a phone call that my father had passed away. And it was truly devastating.

Ever since we lost our mother in 2009, Dad had been grieving. One could hardly have a conversation with him without him speaking of how much he missed his wife and companion of 52 years. I suppose when one builds their world around a pillar, life can begin to crumble as the pillar collapses. But the foundation on which our parents built our family will never be shaken.

A Marine Corps veteran, my father built his legacy around three steadfast principles. He honored his God, his country and his family. And he wouldn’t flinch in defending any of the three with his life. He truly was a “man’s man.”

Born and raised in a coal mining community in Man, West Virginia, he grew up during The Great Depression. Times were beyond difficult. My grandfather worked long, arduous hours to put food on the table and to keep a few meager clothes on their backs. My father learned early of the value of hard work and doing your very best at whatever task was set before you. Growing up, I often recall Dad saying, “Son, any job worth doing is worth doing right.” I suppose my sons are as tired of hearing it from me now as I was from him then.

Throughout our early years, I watched my father work some very difficult jobs and some very long hours, but I never recall him complaining. I remember him working as a crane operator at ACF and recall how much he enjoyed the job. He had a keen eye which allowed him to become very proficient at operating a crane. That keen eye had served him well in the military. He earned several marksmanship awards, at one time coming close to breaking the Marine Corps point record on the firing range.

And Dad loved his country. He made darn sure each of us knew that voting was not optional. Determined to make a difference, he even took a “one-time” stab at running for political office. It didn’t take long for him to realize he wasn’t called to politics! “Political correctness” was not in my father’s repertoire! Just like on the firing range, the only way he knew to “shoot” was “straight.”

Looking back, and probably more from his actions than his words, Dad instilled in each of us a sense of duty and obligation. He made sure we realized that giving anything less than our best would be doing ourselves, our family and our God a disservice.

Now, although grieving over the loss of my hero, I rejoice in knowing he is where he has wanted to be for over six years – in the arms of his wife and our Heavenly Father.

Godspeed Dad. We sure will miss you.


Robert L. Caserta received full military funeral honors, which included the folding and presenting of the United States burial flag and the playing of taps. Mark was honored to receive the flag on behalf of his family.