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ROBERT B. TANT, SR.
My father died on April 4. I am having a really hard time dealing with his loss. I've put all my groups on No Mail for a while, but contact me if you need or want to, individually tantsy1@...<mailto:tantsy1@...>
I gave the Eulogy at his funeral. He'll be buried at Arlington National Cemetery on June 26, at 3:00. His coffin will be taken to his grave site on a horse-drawn caisson, and we'll follow on foot. He'll have a bugle corps, a rifle corps for a 21 gun salute, and a flyover by Navy jets. My dad was a true American Hero, and I want my friends to meet him, in my eulogy:
I stand here today in my sister's shoes and my brother's shirt in recognition of the fact that I speak for all three of Dad's children. I know that Bud and Sue are standing beside me today, and my words come from all our hearts, as I felt their inspirations as I wrote Dad's eulogy.
My dad was born Robert Buford Tant, on September 20, 1925 in a tiny Alabama town called Tallassee. He was born 4th into a very poor family of 7 children. He had three brothers; Bud, Clyde and Ray, all of whom proceeded him in death; and 3 sisters, Mildred, Jenny and Patricia. Jenny and Patricia are the sole remaining members of his original nuclear family. His childhood was very deprived and difficult, and they sometimes went hungry, as his family struggled to survive the depression.
As a child, he had to pick cotton for a penny a pound in order to buy his school books. He used to tell me about how the cotton bolls cut his hands until every handful of cotton he put into the sack had his blood on it. But he did it, because it was the only way he could go to school, and he valued education.
He wanted to be a doctor, but WWII broke out, so 3 days after his 17th birthday, he dropped out of school and joined the Navy.
He was stationed aboard the carrier WASP, on a TBM Bomber, when on July 4, 1944, at the age of 18, his plane was shot down near Iwo Jima. The turret gunner on his plane was hit by strafing from a Japanese Zero, and dad spent two days in the water with him, trying to save his life. During that time, they lost all of their survival equipment.
Following a shark attack that took the sleeve off Dad's shirt, he realized the only chance they had for survival was for him to swim to a small island in the distance, and try to get help sent back for the gunner. After another day in the water, and after many tries, he eventually pulled himself, exhausted and sick from salt water, over a barnacle-covered rock, onto the small, uninhabited island. Finding no water or food, he was left with no alternative than to hang his skivvy shirt on a bamboo pole as a signal to those on the main island.
So it was that on July 7, 1944 Dad became the first American serviceman to land on Iwo Jima, although reluctantly, as a prisoner of war.
Following 14 months of incarceration in POW camps, Dad returned home, wasted to 85 lbs., with tuberculosis, and other health problems, but alive, and as strong of spirit as ever.
He received a battlefield commission to Chief Petty Officer at the age of 20, making him at the time, the youngest Chief Petty Officer in the Navy. While on active duty, he returned to school and received his high school diploma and college GED.
In 1969 Dad was nominated for Command Master Chief of the Navy, and was very proud of that honor. He began the nomination process, but by that time he had met June. She was new to America and wasn't confident enough about her English to feel comfortable in the fishbowl social world of Washington, DC., so Dad elected to forgo the nomination, for his beloved, and they were married on December 11, 1970.
Dad spent 29 distinguished years in the Navy, retiring in 1970 as a Command Master Chief, with gold braid, in recognition of his perfect service record, the holder of two Purple Hearts, 3 awards of the Air Medal, Congressional POW Medal, Vietnam Campaign Medal, WWII Victory Medal, Enrollment in the Enlisted Airman's Combat Hall of Fame, and I can't even begin to know how many other medals and awards.
I have always been so proud that Bob Tant was my Dad. I was so blessed and so honored to be his daughter. My Dad is a true American Hero, and a National Treasure.
He and June moved to Houston, TX after he retired, and he spent a short time selling real estate, before going to work at the post office. He loved Houston, where most of his family was living, but always longed to return to Whidbey Island, because this is where his heart has been since he was first stationed here in 1957.
Eventually, a job at the Oak Harbor post office became available, and dad got it. He was really happy to return home to Whidbey.
He retired from the post office in 1982, following 12 years of service, and soon after began his career as an Oak Harbor City Council member. During his tenure on the City Council, he was instrumental on the committee to prevent NAS Whidbey from being closed.
I worked for the Department of Defense at the time the Base Closure list with Whidbey's name on it was released. A few days later we were discussing the closures and I told the Air Force Major for whom I worked that they wouldn't be closing NAS Whidbey because my Dad was on the committee to stop that closure, and that my Dad had never fought a battle he hadn't won. The Major said, "Well, he's going to lose this one, because he's up against the Base Realignment and Closure Committee." I replied, "Wait and see - the Base Realignment and Closure Committee has never been up against my Dad before."
We all know how that turned out. Major Cahela bought me lunch.
After serving 8 years on the City Council, Dad finally retired to fishing, crabbing, gardening and helping Bill O'Reilly run the world from his arm chair.
When I was small I used to stand in his right hand. It was our "parlor trick". He enjoyed showing his friends how brave his daughter was, but it didn't take bravery to stand in Dad's hand. If Dad said I could do it, I knew I could do it. I knew he would never drop me.
He used to read us bedtime stories, but he didn't read us Mother Goose or Dr. Zeuss. He read us the works of Oscar Wilde, Lord Tennyson, Edgar Allen Poe - all the classics, so we grew up with a love of great literature and good writing skills of our own.
He was the biggest person in my life. He was the primary force that formed who I am. When I was a child, when I did right, it was to please him. When I did wrong, it was to spite him. Everything I did was related to Dad in some way. He was my hero and he was my nemesis. He was the person who most perplexed and angered me and he was my God on earth. He took up so much space in my life that the void left by his passing will never heal. I don't know how to live in a world without my Dad, and I dread learning.
It's no secret that he was sometimes a "grumpling", and yelling was second nature to him, but he had a tender heart, and always felt bad after he'd lost his temper. He didn't always know how to say "I'm sorry" with words, but he'd say it with his actions, and would always do something special to let you know he regretted his harsh words.
Dad firmly believed that SOB stood for Sweet Old Bob.
My Dad was a great man. Not just because he was my Dad, but because being a great man came naturally to him. He knew how to do everything, and he loved to share his knowledge and wisdom. I think he taught something to everyone who ever crossed his path.
I can best sum him up in Marc Anthony's words about Julius Caesar:
His heart was gentle, and the elements so mixed in him that Nature might stand up and say to all the world, "this was a man."
I love you Dad, and I'll be waiting for you to come back for me someday.
I'll be in touch, when I've had time to heal a little.
Peace and Blessings,
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