Sunday slant: Memorial Day means more to some

Andrew Childress, the son of Vikings coach Brad Childress, is serving his country in the Middle East, bringing more meaning to this holiday weekend for those close to him. Brad Childress talked about the adjustment and staying in contact with his son.

It's Memorial Day weekend. This year, the appreciation for veterans – war veterans not football veterans – started early for me. On Thursday, I found out that Tony Parker, a former professor and eventual colleague of mine at Viking Update, had died. He was one of the most confident – and caring – people in the media business, and the love between him and his wife was something to behold in today's world. He also served the United States in World War II.

Friday brought a trip to my hometown to attend the funeral of a one of my friend's dad, who I learned was one of the first in the military to parachute from a plane during the Korean War. There was the presentation of the flag to the family. The firearms salute. The playing of taps. The proud tears of those close to him.

The overused, overblown references to war are all around us when it comes to sports. In the weeks and months following 9/11, there was a heightened sense of awareness that war is war – real life and death – and sports is just an escape in which references to war are nothing more than hyperbole.

War references in football are made all the time, but on this Memorial Day Weekend, you can be sure Brad Childress is paying a special debt of gratitude to those that served in the military as he thinks of his son, Andrew, who was deployed to Afghanistan a couple weeks ago.

"He's overseas right now. He's in the middle of it," the Vikings coach said Thursday as he stood a half a world apart in the clubhouse at Rush Creek Golf Club during a benefit for the Vikings Children's Fund.

"I don't know where he's at. I just know vaguely how he got there and that he's there in one piece. … I basically know (he's in) Afghanistan. That's a pretty big country."

Andrew joined the Marines in December 2008 and quickly left for basic training in San Diego. It was a decision that his father felt very personally at the time.

"It's heart-wrenching because it's against every instinct that you have as a parent to allow your child to be put in harm's way," Childress said back then. "But it was a decision he wanted, and he's wanted to do it for a very long time. I have no doubt that he'll be good at it and he'll serve our country very well."

Back then, service overseas was a distinct possibility. Now it has turned into a reality, which weighs on Andrew's father and mother to varying degrees at different times in their days.

Brad, who was recognized by his alma mater of Marmion Academy in Aurora, Ill. with the 2008 Centurion Award for exceptional achievement, had a chance to talk with his son on Thursday morning between the Vikings' practice and their charity golf outing.

"I asked him how his body clock was and he said, ‘Not bad. We got more sleep going over there than we ever did.' I said, ‘That's a plus thing to airline travel,'" Childress said. "He said it's hotter than you can believe. Staying in mud huts. I'm always fascinated just to hear whatever he'll say. I can't drill down very far, but just some of the banter (was good)."

The hardest part might be the length of the tour of duty.

"We have our moments. (We're) doing pretty good right now. The middle of December is pretty long pull," Brad said.

Asked if that's when Andrew returns, the head coach added the sobering disclaimer.

"God-willing, yeah."

The coach doesn't often drill down on his emotions in front of reporters, but here's hoping that his son keeps his team's playsheet close to the vest and advances to the end zone – a safe return home to see his Vikings playing in December and beyond.

Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.

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