Laying Down on the Job

Laying Down on the Job
The Santa Monica Easy

Friday, November 11, 2011


Besides being a really awesome palindrome (no, that's not the name of Sarah Palin's country home), 11/11/11 is Veteran's Day.  It's the day we civilians are provided the opportunity to do more than just slap a "Support our Troops" bumper sticker on something. It's the chance to voice our thanks to the members of our military community, without whom our freedoms might only be a long-forgotten, faded piece of parchment. 

Thank you from the bottom of my heart to all our veterans. You are loved, celebrated, you are treasured and admired more than most of us can ever articulate. I'm not a veteran but I am a military brat so I'm a teeny-tiny bit familiar with the personal sacrifice of military life. There's much opportunity in military service but there's sacrifice as well. Besides opportunity to serve this country, the chance to earn a college degree, a noble career, and the experience of being part of a team, there's low pay, drafty base housing and more time away from family than with them.  

I'd like to expand my thanks to include the military families who stay strong and lovingly give of themselves in a way they may not have anticipated when their beloved family member became part of our military forces. For the military, service to country comes first and family members provide a huge amount of support to make that happen. This country should also thank the families. I salute the veterans and their incomparable families from the deepest, furthest corners of my heart. You bring color, vitality and nobility to our American life.  You are part of who we salute or for whom we cover our hearts when we sing the "Star Spangled Banner" or say the Pledge of Allegiance.  Thank you.

I thank my cousin Dale in Chicago who enlisted in the Marines in 1968 on the day he turned 18. He spent two tours as a lineman in Vietnam before he was twenty. He came home to marry a lovely woman and raise three fantastic, loving, generous children whose lives contribute to the world. Thank you Dale.  You have led a loving, selfless, noble life and you are one of my heroes. I'm proud of you. The whole family is proud of you. 

I'd like to celebrate my cousin Christina who enlisted with the Marines at age 18 and continued to serve her country even as a single mother. You inspire me and I thank you.  

A special thank you to my eighty-seven year old father, who, at age 18, was flying P38's with the famous 94th Aero Squadron over Italy during WWII.  He spent 24 years in the Air Force beginning his career when it was known as Army-Air Corps and retiring in 1964.
About five years ago I attended a course, "American War Films", offered through Santa Monica College We viewed, analyzed and discussed about ten films, one of which was "The Story of G.I. Joe" which I'd never seen before.  War films are not my favorite film genre but I've seen a number of them. Where other films left me with a hatred of war and violence, "The Story of GI Joe" transformed me -- not my thinking -- me.  I don't mean that I now love war and violence but I did come away with a LOT more -- 100% more -- appreciation for what it took to be in the armed forces during WWII. 

Walking home after the class, I felt the urge to call my dad and thank him for his service.  Like so many veterans, Dad seldom spoke about what war was like for him so I didn't know if I'd embarrass him or make him uncomfortable. I called anyway. I told Dad, "I've just seen 'The Story of GI Joe' and, I know you weren't in the infantry and I'll never know what it was like for you in World War II, but I appreciate what you did and I want thank you. I just really thank you."  He was quiet for a few seconds. Then he said, "You don't need to thank me."  I said, "I want to." Another second or two passed before he replied, "No one in my family ever thanked me before."  We talked further but I was so glad I made the call and so glad I thanked my father for his service to this country. 
In his back yard.
Dad lives in Virginia now and spends his days teaching himself Arabic, studying home courses about calculus, astronomy, theology, genetics and teachings of the Buddha. As an unintended member of The Greatest Generation, he's a walking, breathing part of history -- and he's interesting to talk to about almost any subject. 

Enjoying the afternoon sun.

Most days Dad takes a walk along the Windsor Castle park bridge in Smithfield, VA.  If you see him, introduce yourself and chat. I'm sure he'd be delighted and it'd be a gift to him if you say "Thank you for your service to this country".

Once again, thank you Veterans and Veterans' families. 

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