- Booker T Washington
I know it's been a few days now that D-Day has passed, but it hasn't been lost on me. I wanted to share some thoughts with you on my past, as well as those in my life that went before me.
I have been honored in my life to serve this country as a member of the armed forces. I served in the US Navy from 1987-1994, in both a traditional sea duty role and as support to the armed forces on shore duty. I will admit it wasn't the most enjoyable thing I ever did, but like doing an intense Crossfit workout, it feels wonderful after the fact.
Serving the country changed my opinion about this land we live in, how our government really looks and how people really feel about the current Commander In Chief (because you get an inside peek), what war time feels like (kind of, as I was in during the first Gulf war), and the pride one gets when the National Anthem is played in a movie theater and you quietly weep in nationalistic pride and pseudo-embarrassment (I really did this!).
My grandfather, Emden Marriott served in the European theater during WW2. He told me stories of what went on over there, and the atrocities he saw. He never hid it from me, but he also never reveled in the past. He was honored to serve (especially since he was a Canadian citizen at the time) as the Nazi regime must be stopped, but he was always quiet about the war. I would push him from time to time, to share, and he would, but it was always slightly uncomfortable to share. One time he told me about an experience he had while on a scouting mission. He was on point and was ahead of his platoon, when he spotted a church tower in the distance. As movies have shown us, those are perfect perches for snipers to pick off enemy soldiers. The tower had to be cleared and it was his job. He made his way around the church with nary a shot fired. As he worked his way up the tower steps, he heard the shuffling of feet, which indicated someone was up there. He crept up slowly and saw a thin soldier standing there, with his gun pointed out the window towards his platoon. As my grandfather cocked his gun, the soldier took notice and spun around, pointing his gun at my grandfather.
He was a little kid. With a gun.
...and he's wearing the uniform of the enemy.
...and it's war. One has to die. Simple as that.
The moment happened faster than could have been prevented. Grandpa pulled the trigger and the young boy died, right in front of him.
I can't imagine the pain he must have carried with him until his death. As they say, war is hell.
My other grandfather, Mark Jones, served in the Pacific in the US Navy. I never heard stories of wartime from him, but I always got the very clear sentiment that it was a brutal thing. Grandpa only saw the Japanese as the enemy. He never got over it. Years later, when my dad worked for different automobile distributors, especially the Japanese ones, I remember Grandpa complaining that the cars would never be good enough and that those people should all die. He had such bitterness embedded in him from the war. When he died, that died with him as well. The same year he died, I married a Japanese woman. He would have struggled with that, but according to my Grandma, he'd have eventually made peace, seeing how much I loved her. So, there's that.
My dad served during peacetime in Europe during the last 50's. He was a tank mechanic, which lead to a lifetime of tinkering with metal and wood. Dad is a great man. He taught me to be a leader, even if he was busy working. What little time I got with my dad was very good. He worked very long hours, so we really didn't see him too much. We ate dinner late every day, and then I'd go to bed. He'd be gone to work before I awoke.
His schedule was nuts. At least we could spend time on the boat on Sunday, when we could. He didn't talk much, but I knew he loved me. Again, my dad is a good man. He's survived a heart attack, Diabetes and Cancer. He's still with us and this is good. Very good.
To this end, I am proud of who I am and where I came from. I have leaders in my life now, and even more importantly, I came from leaders who were willing to die for something honorable that couldn't be quantified. It was just the right thing to do. Funny how that works.
Happy Father's Day to those that live and to the memory of those that came before us. You are loved, always.
"Of all the properties which belong to honorable men, not one is so highly prized as that of character."
- Henry Clay