When I raised my right hand to salute my father as he boarded the battleship he'd serve the next year on, somehow I knew it was the last time I'd see him. Just a gut feeling, one that I summarily dismissed.
Three months later, standing at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, I accepted the flag handed to me by a nameless officer. I did not cry, despite the burning in my eyes and the cold, sick feeling in my stomach. My father had taught me to be strong, to stand at attention and look straight ahead. I didn't flinch when the 21-gun salute went off, nor did I weep as the coffin was lowered into the ground. I simply bowed my head and said amen along with the Navy chaplain and the rest of the guests.
Despite my best efforts, a single tear trickled down my cheek. My father was gone, and all I had left was a flag full of stars.