TOUR OF DUTY: A son retraces a World War II soldier’s path through Europe. His discovery? What matters most is not where you go, but what you leave behind.

RON THIBODEAUX

Cpl. Paul Thibodeaux stands in front of a jeep at one of the airfields built in Europe by the 843rd Engineer Aviation Battalion during World War II.Cpl. Paul Thibodeaux stands in front of a jeep at one of the airfields built in Europe by the 843rd Engineer Aviation Battalion during World War II.

Dad loved his work, never complaining about the six days he had to toil every week to keep his small grocery business afloat. He loved to cook — and he was good at it, like so many Cajun men of his generation. He loved the church, taking us to 11 a.m. Mass at St. Gregory every Sunday, always reciting his prayers there in a whisper, as a sign of reverence.

He loved his two sons, and he positively doted on his wife of 46 years.

But there was something else about Paul Thibodeaux. As children, my brother and I certainly admired him for it. As adults, we concluded with amusement that it — much more than parenthood — was the defining experience of…

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