Growing up, I learned many dates. We did not have school on certain dates so they became important. Columbus Day – October 12, Washington’s birthday – February 22, Lincoln’s birthday – February 12, Veteran’s Day – November 11, Thanksgiving – third Thursday in November, Christmas – December 25. Of course, we had to learn about other days as well: Independence Day, Groundhog Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day and many more. Many of these were “party” days but not necessarily stay home from school days. Thanks to the two presidents, I learned how to correctly spell February. And thanks to my dad, I learned about Veteran’s Day.
When dad was a young boy growing up in a small farm community in west Texas, he hung around the gas station that my grandfather owned. He not only learned how to fix things he also learned how to get along with others. He played football and tennis and was the oldest of six. He was in High School when World War II started. He and his friend rushed to join the service.
The boys were seventeen and eighteen years old. Some, like my dad, were seniors in High School. They dropped out of school to join the military. They gave up their graduations and the promise of a high school diploma. Having grown up in a shop, my dad was a perfect fit with a construction battalion. He served in the US Navy Seabees. This was, and is, a construction battalion. As a tender age, he was put on a ship headed for the Pacific theater. Several years later, he made it back home. Many of his friends did not return to their family farms in west Texas.
My dad never talked much about his tour of duty for the US Navy. He taught us to count to ten in Japanese and he had two nifty swords hidden in the back of his closet. We also knew he had to give up the end of his senior year in high school to go serve. We knew he was a Navy Seabee and was proud of it. That was enough.
When dad returned from the war, he met momma, got married, and raised us. Along the way dad earned his GED. He always stressed education to us because it was one of the things he had to give up in order to serve his country.
In 2001, a bill was passed for veteran’s who dropped out of high school to receive their diploma’s. My brother applied for the diploma and we had a party to congratulate dad on his high school graduation. At the age of 75, he was a high school graduate! He was extremely proud of that diploma.
Not every military story ends as my dad’s did. Some stories end in heartache and others end in endless pain. We were blessed that our dad returned from the war. November 11 is important to us because it is a day to say “thank you” to those we know who returned to influence our lives.
My father-in-law served as a medic in the Army during the Korean War.
My brother followed my dad into the Seabees during the Vietnam War.
My oldest son served in the Marines during the conflict with Iraq.
My middle son leaves for boot camp in two weeks to serve with the Marines.
On Monday, we will celebrate Veteran’s Day. This is a day set aside to honor America’s veterans for their patriotism, love of country, and willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good.
If you know someone who has served in the military, give them a call. Say a little prayer for them and their families. Remember them and honor them.
Thank You for serving.