Veteran’s Day is a time honored celebration in my family for several reasons:
My childhood – My father spent thirty three years in the Air Force which means I grew up as a “military brat”. As a career military family, we moved every three – four years to exotic places like Indiana, Nebraska and Arizona. But we also had assignments in Japan where I attended 2nd – 4th grade and Germany for 7th – 9th grade. Growing up in that environment fostered a strong sense of family, a loyalty to our country and a feeling of tolerance and acceptance, all character traits I believe can be attributed to the military lifestyle.
My ancestry – I am proud of the lineage of veterans in my immediate family who served our country in the military, many of whom went on to lives of public service.
- My grandfather enlisted in the Army when he graduated from high school in South Dakota. In 1914, his unit (the 147th Artillery) was dispatched to Texas on a hunt for Pancho Villa. Two months later the unit was sent to northern France where they fought in the “Battle of the Frontiers”. His unit was gassed but Grandpa Bob recovered and went on to a long career as a rural mail carrier. It’s fair to say public service was his calling.
- My great aunt served as a nurse in the Army Medical Corp in WWII. Aletha was stationed on a hospital ship off the coast of Italy that transported wounded soldiers back to the US. After the war ended, she had a twenty year career as a public school nurse in Brooklyn NY.
- My uncle enlisted in the Marines at the age of 16 and was a member of the 5th division that captured Iwo Jima from the Japanese in 1945. RB went on to a life of public service as an IRS agent.
- My brother served two tours of duty in the Navy during the Vietnam War as a river boat scout in the Mehkong Delta. Steve continues to suffer from the side effects of exposure to Agent Orange but had a successful career in the IT industry.
- My father went from a high school in South Dakota to work with the CCC and then into the Army. He was stationed in the Philippines in 1941when war with the Japanese broke out. He escaped from the “Bataan Death March” with five members of his platoon who made their way to the island of Corregidor. When that stronghold fell six months later, Dad was taken as a prisoner of war and relocated to Japan where he worked underground in a coal mine for two and a half years. When the POWs were liberated in 1945, he returned to the same small SD town as a war hero. He met my mother in the post office my grandfather worked in and the rest, as they say, is history.
Our future – The vocabulary of conflict will change as words like “beach head” and “bunkers” are replaced by “drones” and “cyberwarfare” but the need for the “courage” and “honor” personified by our military veterans will never wane.
May we celebrate the memories of the American men and women who serve our country for generations to come.