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Childless Fathers

Last year I was on a street corner in Chicago standing with a Quaker woman and a young Quaker girl at a peace demonstration - just like I did in 1962 when I was 14. Only this time on the ground there were combat boots painted white, which symbolized the soldiers who had committed suicide either in the field or at home. A man stood next to a pale woman who cried quietly as he described holding his son on his lap the night before he killed himself in his basement.


I stood there as he talked about writing to (then) Senator Barack Obama to ask him for help with other children who would travel the path his son had traveled. He talked about how the children came home and had no manual for the way to deal with these soldiers. There was no way to know if they were broken or in need of repair. He was angry because he only got a form letter in response. I went to him afterwards and told him I would do what I could do. This editorial and Father’s Day Presidential request on behalf of the fathers of vets returning home is dedicated to him.

Big O, I know you are busy with trying to fix all the "Bush the Lesser" junk and dealing with Rover, the Dick, and Limbost, but here is the question from the childless fathers on Fathers’ Day: Why can you not tell the guy in charge of the military and the Veterans Administration to make up a guide for fathers on how to deal with the returnees? I know that one base has stood down to try to get a handle on this, but more than that is needed.

Also, while you are at it, maybe you could get one written up for the wives, husbands, kids, and the troops themselves that tells them, look, I know you went to a war that America continues to ask you over and over again to fight and seems not to count and I am sorry it is not over yet, but at least here is your book – so you know you are not alone and that America cares about you and your future and your family.

Let us work together to get this done in memory of the 5,071 dead Americans who were killed in the war and for the 50,376 soldiers who are wounded and may or may not be home because we keep sending them back until, well, you know.

First, we need a person who can write to remind vets about the perspective of their kids. We need to ask some kids of high-profile parents (doctors, judges, legislators, teachers, and the like), like the White House kids, to do a chapter. You see, they are used to dealing with high-stress parents who come home beat and used up. This could be compiled into a picture book for kids on how to talk to the “parental units”.

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For the wives and husbands, well, let us see, who do we know deals with a partner who is or is not there for dinner even when they are there. My bet, I am sure the Obama women (Michelle’s mother, Michelle, and her daughters) would lend a hand; each generation could do a chapter on how to deal with the soldier in the house.

For the troops, we should have them write in about ways that they have learned to cope. Nothing beats peer support.

Now about the parent father part, I think the Big O should ask the childless fathers to write something and send it in. This way, it will come from all of those who only have graves to visit on Fathers’ Day and it will be the truth. With a little luck, we can stop the children from sitting on their fathers’ laps crying before they die.


To all of fathers who will celebrate this day with your children hold them close and remind them in your own way that they are close to you and will always be with you no matter where you are or where they are.

Steven J. Ybarra

Steven J. Ybarra JD is a retired civil rights attorney who operates a consultant company in California. He is a member of the California Democratic State Party and is Chair of the Chicano Latino Caucus Voting Rights Committee and a long time political activist. Contact Steven at: This article is copyright by Steven J. Ybarra JD, originally published in but permission is granted for reprint in print, email, blog, or web media if this entire credit paragraph is attached.