My father, John Badnarik, was born on June 19th, 1928, just before the start of the Great Depression. He had a difficult childhood, and when he graduated from high school, he joined the Army to serve our country at the beginning of the Korean Conflict. Luckily for my brothers and me, he returned safely and started a family in northwest Indiana. He just celebrated his ninety-second birthday, and I want to honor him (again) this Father’s Day.
(I also want to thank my brother Chuck for acting as Dad’s caregiver for the last five years.)
Country/Western singer, Chris Young sings “…any fool can make a baby… but it takes a man… to raise a child”. My father dedicated his life to raising three boys and teaching them to be respectable men. Growing up, there was never a doubt in our minds that Dad was the “head of the household”, and that it was foolish to ignore any of the rules he had clearly established. Breaking a lamp because you were throwing the football in the living room was an accident that would result in a mild punishment. Lying about breaking the lamp – because you knew you weren’t supposed to throw the football in the house – was considered a much greater crime, and it resulted in more severe consequences. Telling the truth was not an option, to be used only when it was convenient. We learned that an honorable man, worthy of your trust, always tells the truth regardless of the consequences. We were told that the Badnarik name carried a positive reputation with it… and there would be hell to pay if we did anything to tarnish that name.
Men of my father’s generation were silent heroes. They took their responsibilities very seriously. My father worked shift-work, meaning days, nights, or mid-nights. He did so in the oven-like heat of the summer, and the sub-zero, mind-numbing temperatures of winter. And he did so without complaint. Not even once. He accepted the responsibility of providing food for his family, and he worked two jobs for as long as I can remember to make sure that his wife and children had everything they needed. And, as if that wasn’t enough, he took us on summer vacations to visit forty-eight of the continental United States, most of the national parks, and probably half of the state capitols.
He taught us to be tough, (“Stop crying, or I’ll give you something to cry about.”) and he taught us to be honorable, (“Always do the right thing, no matter how difficult that may be.”). As a boy, there were times when I failed to anticipate the consequences of certain actions. When Dad yelled, I tried to explain that I hadn’t anticipated the negative results. I began my defense with, “I didn’t think…” at which point Dad interrupted by saying, “That’s your problem! You didn’t think!” Later, as my vocabulary grew, Dad would yell, “How the hell did THIS happen?” I would respond, “I plead ignorance.” Dad would look at me with disappointment and say, “Son… you don’t have to plead.” There were a few men who didn’t like my father, but not a single one who didn’t respect my father. My brothers and I could never have picked a better role model, even if it were within our capacity to do so.
When I was twenty-nine years old I was on a camping trip with the Boy Scouts. I was the only adult supervision that evening. I knew the boys wouldn’t go to sleep at 9:00pm, but when I found them laughing around the fire at 1:00am, I jumped out of my tent and yelled one of the exact phrases that my father had yelled at me, oh so many times. I was dumbstruck! I had turned into my father! At the time I was horrified. It was as if I had lost my own identity, and was merely a carbon copy of someone else. Today, I am proud to claim the high standards of integrity that he taught me, and I can only hope that he is at least half as proud of me as I am of him.
To any of my readers with a Y chromosome: if you have children of the male persuasion, teach them to be honorable men. Teach them to respect others, to accept the responsibilities of the choices they have made, and to never complain about the unexpected traumas that happen from time to time. And the best way to teach these principles is to set a good example.
John Badnarik and sons – 1968 John Badnarik and sons – 2018
(an excerpt from Secret to Sovereignty – pages 79-81)
My father taught me integrity at a very young age. When I was around five years old I was outside swinging a plastic whiffle bat on a summer day. I was also wandering aimlessly from place to place, innocently enjoying my existence. As I wandered between our house and the neighbor’s next door, my Babe Ruth imagination caused me to swing for the cheap seats – and I broke the neighbor’s basement window. As soon as I heard the crash and saw the broken window, I started running for first base – which was far, far, from the broken window. I hadn’t taken my second step when my father’s booming voice shouted, “Where are you going!” I froze. As my father approached he asked again, “Where were you planning to go, son?” I was speechless, knowing that I only had a few moments to live before I was beaten within an inch of my life.
It turned out to be worse than that. My father squatted down to look me in the eye to have what may have been my first “man to man chat” with Dad. (There have been numerous others, believe me!) Dad asked me to explain what happened even though he had watched the whole thing. He asked me to analyze the situation, wherein I discovered that breaking the window was merely an accident, however running away to shirk my responsibility was shameful and dishonorable. Dad instructed me to knock on the neighbor’s door and inform her of the incident. I had to apologize and promise to repair the window. My father then helped me remove the broken glass from the frame, drove me to the hardware store to purchase a replacement pane (which he paid for) and he held the new pane in place as I helped to install new caulk to finish the repair. The last step was to knock on the neighbor’s door again to apologize, report that the damage had been fixed, and to promise to be more careful with my bat in the future.
Is it any wonder that my father has been my hero and role model since the beginning of my consciousness? I have never known a man with more integrity than my father. It’s possible that George Washington never told a lie, but he is practically pathological compared to my father. There are a few people who dislike my father intensely, but not a living soul will question his integrity. I am still doing my best to live up to his example. This is not an easy task as you might well imagine.