Veterans Day is never easy for Danny Cruz.
It elicits emotion, pain, sacrifice, pride and joy all wrapped into one.
Cruz -- a midfielder who just completed another regular season with the Philadelphia Union – was preparing for this day.
Everything associated with it, however, is difficult.
Cruz’s father, Al, has served numerous tours in the Persian Gulf, Iraq and Afghanistan, where he is presently located and fighting for his country.
“I obviously think about my dad on this day,” Danny Cruz said in a telephone interview with Philadelphiaunion.com. “It means a lot to me and it’s also not an easy day for me. He has spent a lot of time over there and it hasn’t always been the easiest thing for me to deal with on this day.
“It’s not my favorite day, but at the same time, I’m so proud of my dad and I’m lucky to have him in my life. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to appreciate what he does more. I mean, he’s fighting for our country. It’s hard to have him away, but I understand it now and I’m proud.”
When Cruz was younger, he admitted how tough it was on him having his father away for large chunks of time.
“We’ve gotten so much closer as I’ve gotten older and more mature,” Cruz said. “When I was younger, I was immature and stupid and didn’t understand everything fully that was going on. He was fighting for our country and I was missing my dad. I’ve come to understand things so much more clearly in the years that have passed.
“In high school, my soccer coaches acted as my father figure. I was a kid and didn’t comprehend everything. We didn’t have a lot of money growing up and that was tough. I think through the years, this has made me stronger and a much better person. It was difficult at the time, but I understand it now. I’m so proud of him and what he’s doing for our country.”
Al Cruz has received care packages from the Sons of Ben along with so many supportive letters.
For Danny, seeing that type of support has been amazing.
“It does make you proud to see that,” he said. “The whole community has been so supportive and gracious. It shows you a human side of people. My dad is over there fighting for our country. I’m a man now and we’ve become so much closer. I’m helping him with projects while he’s over there and I can’t wait to see him again. I no longer see him being over there as a nuisance. I was a kid back then.
“I’m much more mature now and I’m proud to help him and support him. Back then, we were struggling financially and I was having to help out. As I look back now, I wouldn’t be the man I am without having to go through what I went through. My dad has made so many sacrifices and see it all clearly now.”
What does he see?
“I’m just blessed,” Cruz said. “I am a stronger person and blessed to have my dad in my life. To do what he does is something special.”
About an hour later following this interview, Cruz took to Twitter to show that gratitude when he posted this:
Days like today are tough, so blessed to have a father who believes in fighting for what he sees is right, I'm proud to call him my dad #vet— Danny Cruz (@Dannycruz5) November 11, 2013
Contact Union writer Andy Jasner at firstname.lastname@example.org