To those who have served, are serving, and those planning to serve in the United States Armed Forces, I salute you.
Veterans Day is next Wednesday and for me it is always very special. No, I have never served in the military and that remains one of my regrets in life. Had I known back in high school what the honor of military service would be, I’d have done it in a heartbeat. Back in the early 1980s, however, military service wasn’t looked upon too highly.
As a nation, we still had the very bitter taste of Vietnam in our mouths. Veterans came home all messed up to an even more messed up world. The perspective I had was that most Vietnam vets were ashamed to let people know of their service, mostly due to the way they were treated upon their return. Many struggled to cope with their new reality. The perception of veterans back then wasn’t favorable. The military was cutting back and just didn’t present itself as a place with a future.
I grew up with the outdated mindset that military service is what guys did after school who weren’t good enough to go to college. I went to college. It’s not that I was looking down my nose at those who entered the military, it’s that I was determined to do better. I now realize that I couldn’t have done any better than to have served, but that’s the advantage of hindsight.
One of the things this nation learned post-Vietnam is to honor those who serve and protect us. That’s why you see such a push to thank our veterans. We need them to know how much they are valued and respected for their sacrifices.
My father served in the Air Force for four years in the early 1960s, but I never saw him publicly embrace his service until more recent years when it was more socially acceptable for Vietnam-era veterans to do so.
I watched as my brother Don went into the Navy and serve four years. It was one of the best things he ever did in life. My cousin Rich, who was a scrawny kid with a tough-guy attitude, joined the Marines and became a tough guy with a humble attitude. He proudly served 20 years, including stints in the Middle East. Our great-grandfather came to this county from Sweden and served briefly in the Spanish-American War.
My brother-in-law Brandon Moore is a career Army chaplain, currently posted at the Pentagon. My youngest son, Colton, is a senior in high school and very active in the JROTC. He has been accepted to Texas A&M, where he will join the ROTC and then go on to the Air Force or Space Force. I am very proud of him!
I have just recently been informed that my oldest son, Wesley, is looking to join the Army. I am excited about that and am anxious to see where it will take him.
My wife’s side of the family is steeped in military service. There’s scarcely a skirmish in U.S. military history that doesn’t include someone in her family tree. That’s not so much the case for my side of the family, or so I thought.
I’ve spent a lot of time looking up my family tree and I’ve found I’ve been drawn to grandfathers who served in wartime. Part of my genealogical motivation has been to join the Sons of the American Revolution. I have many ancestors through whom I am qualified but proving it with actual documentation is tough and time-consuming. Most of them I have to trace through a line of grandmothers.
It turns out that I’m descended from a whole slew of Civil War veterans. They’re mostly Union, which is odd considering the roots of my tree are very Southern (no pun intended). I have not found any World War I or World War II veterans on my side, but that has more to do with the way the ages of grandfathers fell between the wars. They were too young for WWI and too old to be drafted for WWII. My wife’s side, however, makes up for that. At least my three sons will have that military heritage in their lineage.
Sometimes I think the reason I’m so proud of those who served is because I never did. Theirs is a fraternity I can never join and a brotherhood I will never fully comprehend. I reap the rewards of their sacrifice and commitment and for that I am eternally grateful. We all should be. So again, to those who have, are, and will serve, I salute you and thank you!