September 7th, 2014:

MEETING MY BIRTH FATHER — VICTOR HOBSON

Victor Hobson, US Army

Victor Hobson, US Army, would have been 96 last month had he lived past 2000.

Victor & Victoria

Victor & Victoria

I was nine years old before I knew the man I loved and thought of as my father was not even a blood relation. These facts were startlingly revealed to me one summer day because the man I called Dad wanted to legally adopt me. He was a career Army officer preparing to serve in the Korean War, and this legal action would serve to set things right in case he encountered extremely bad luck. I was told that my birth father, Victor, was also an Army officer.

Dad sat me down at the kitchen table in the tiny pastel-colored Jacksonville Beach, Florida tract home we would occupy while he went to Korea for a year as an Army Engineer, fighting the war by building bridges and roads. He explained patiently that he wasn’t my natural father, but wanted to be. This was the first year I was truly cognizant of the fact my legal surname was different than my parents. When I was registered for elementary school in the fall, it would have to be under my legal birth name, a fact that made me very uncomfortable and embarrassed. With approval of the adoption papers, in a short time I would have my dad’s name, which was wonderful news for me. With my unquestioning consent, the adoption papers were sent to Victor for his approval at the Army War College in Pennsylvania, where he was stationed at the time. He signed and returned them without comment

When I was nineteen and in college, I began thinking about Victor and wondering what he was really like. I hadn’t seen him since I was a toddler and had no memory of him. I don’t remember my mother showing me any photos of him. It was a missing part of my life, no matter how much I loved my dad. I dreamed of meeting Victor and pictured various scenarios of his life. Was he still married? Did he have children? My dad had never encountered him in person during their mutually long military careers. I learned later Dad had kept track of the places Victor had been stationed through the years, but had never shared that information with me. Perhaps secrets are a built-in part of military life, even when you’re the dependent, not the military man.

During the semester break of my senior year of college I was staying with a girlfriend’s parents in Northern Virginia to investigate future job possibilities. I wanted to travel and was considering work with federal agencies that would send me overseas. I was even imagining the skullduggery of the Central Intelligence Agency, whose personnel offices were located in an anonymous-looking, unsigned building in Washington, D.C. A complete background check was required, and the forms had questions about my birth father that I couldn’t answer. My parents were stationed in Germany, but my mother, who did not have the answers for the CIA form, informed me Victor was working at the Pentagon. It was the perfect excuse to meet him.

I planned the excursion on my own, not discussing or mentioning it to friends or relatives. Only the closest of my friends even knew that Dad was my stepfather. Divorce and broken families were not as openly discussed in the early sixties.

A long bus ride from Alexandria deposited me at that five-sided military bastion known as The Pentagon, undoubtedly one of the largest buildings in the world, at that time. My stepfather had been stationed there, as had so many other military types at one time or another. Delaying my meeting and gathering my courage, I decided to visit the Army Employment Office first to check on possible jobs after I graduated.

Afterward, since I had made sure I had Victor’s office number, I checked with the information desk, and they gave me a small map to show his office location – which ring, which corridor in this confusingly immense building. It took me a few extra minutes to get there because one of the corridors was wrongly lettered. I couldn’t have imagined how things would change in the future, especially after 9-11, when civilians would no longer be able to just walk into the Pentagon.

To be continued…

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