November 11th is known across the nation as Veteran’s Day, a day set to celebrate our American veterans. These are the people who have willingly taken up arms in defense of our beautiful country and way of life. Some have given life or limb in the course of their service, and this year the DAV (Disabled American Veterans) wants to remind you to #ThankAVet.
In my family, we have a long history of military service. Adorning my parents’ living room wall is an entire gallery of close family’s military portraits. My great grandfather’s photo is a grainy sepia number which shows him standing next to his service horse, as he was a member of the cavalry in the era of Teddy Roosevelt and his Rough Riders. My grandfather wears an Army helmet and a clean-shaven face, which in all my years with him I never saw. He sported a thick white beard my whole life. My father is there, too, a veteran of the Vietnam war, though he thankfully saw no combat.
In fact, my parents both met during their time in the US Air Force in the early 70s. My mother grew up in California, and she joined the military in hopes of seeing the world far from home. She ended up stationed only miles from where she lived. My father, on the other hand, was eager to stay close to his family in his beloved Pennsylvania, and he was disappointed to be sent across the country to San Bernardino. An old-fashioned man, he found southern California to be a little too progressive for his tastes.
Amazingly, it seems they didn’t actually meet on the west coast. Both of my parents did their basic training in San Antonio, Texas, and they realized years later that my mother would have been the one to check my father in, as she was checking out. Their first date was a disaster. My father wasn’t sure if he was allowed to knock on the door of the women’s barracks, so he spent hours outside her bunkhouse in the pouring rain hoping she would come out to check. The next day, my mother gave him hell for standing her up, but when he explained the truth, she realized that any man who would get soaked to the bone for just a glimpse of her was worth a second chance. They were married less than six months later.
My mom likes to regale us with stories of how she worked right up until she gave birth to my oldest brother. She talks about how she was nine months pregnant, climbing across the wings of giant airplanes carrying her 100lb tool box with her. She received an honorable discharge shortly after the birth and waited a few months for my father to finish his service so they could start their new life together.
My parents taught us that our country was the greatest in the world. They taught us that freedom is worth fighting for… worth dying for. Though they finished with the Air Force in their early 20s, my father continued to defend his country throughout his career, first as the Deputy Sheriff of our home town and then as a Federal Agent in the INS and later Homeland Security. When I was young, he told me that he would rather die defending the land he loved and the family he cherished than to sit safely and comfortably at home ignorant of the true cost of freedom. His favorite phrase was, “I may not agree with your view, but I’d fight to the death for your right to have it.”
If you have a vet you want to thank this year, consider using DAV’s Thank A Vet tool to create a personalized video. You can see my tribute to my mother, or check out other Thank A Vet videos from people across the country.
DAV is the only nonprofit that provides a lifetime of support for veterans of ALL generations. Every year, they support more than a million vets by helping them access benefits they’ve earned and connecting them to meaningful employment opportunities. Learn more about DAV and remember to #ThankAVet this year.
And I hope you’ll join me in thanking DAV for supporting America’s veterans.