It was 1976. My father, after 12 years in the US Navy and two tours to Vietnam, had decided not to re-up so he could get to the business of caring for his family. My mother and I traveled from the Philippines to San Diego to meet my father as he disembarked from a destroyer for the final time. As my father came down the ramp, I spotted him. Reaching my arms out, I screamed for him, “Daddy! Daddy!” as my mother held me. Finally, she released me. I ran into my father’s arms as he scooped me up. He looked in my eyes and handed me a vinyl 45 sheathed in white paper. With the gift, he included the following letter:
“To my beloved son. When this man first visited the troops in Vietnam as part of a USO tour, I was simply passing by when I heard him sing these angelic words. I stopped dead in my tracks. The sound pierced my very soul with each and every syllable to escape his tongue. Even as I clung to each word — every utterance bringing a separate message directed right to my heart — my lips began to tremble. Finally, I could no longer contain that which swelled from within me. With the lightest of whimpers, I let go a single tear from my eye. Falling to my knees, I beheld a greatness that, lest I should ever meet God, I expect to never experience again. May his words speak to you as they have me, to get you through the most troubled of times in your life.”
I never got to hear Mr. Dylan perform this song live as my father did. Nevertheless, this gift from my father — today so worn from constant play in my youth, scratched from the neglectful hands of a child who knew not the value he beheld — has indeed helped me push through the darkest times in my life. As I share this experience with you, I pray for your soul to be saved, just as it has mine. May God be with you, as I have no doubt He will be, as the words you are about to hear fall upon your ears.