These two days have become important ones in our household.
The first because my father is a veteran, and he instilled in both my brother and I the importance of putting country over self. It was a message that didn’t catch on easily. I was born in 1962 and came of age during Vietnam and Watergate and protests.
Neither my brother nor I served in the military. As such, we were in many ways removed from those ideals that shape my father’s patriotism – a desire to serve more than self. And my grandfathers’ patriotism. Both tried to enlist during World War II; both were rebuffed for medical reasons. So long as I knew both these men, they were bothered by the fact that they could not come to the aid of their nation as soldiers when their country most needed them.
My awakening came as a reporter, when I began to understand more the importance of honoring veterans and the ideals that moved them to embrace a commitment to something more than themselves.
From interviews conducted with Gold Star families, to attending funerals at Arlington National Cemetary, the ideals of America began to shine a bit brighter in me.
It was during an interview with Ted Sorensen, however, some 20-plus years ago, that I really understood the sacrifice military service requires, and how that service weighs on those who make decisions about sending people to war.
Sorensen had served as President John F. Kennedy’s special assistant and speechwriter. He gave an hour of his time one evening to me, and as the interview wound down, and the conversation grew more casual, I mentioned that my father was in the Army during the Kennedy years as a reservist. He had been called up when I was still an infant because of the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Sorensen stopped the interview and told me to personally thank my father from the former president of the United States for his service. “People really don’t comprehend how close we came to nuclear war,” Sorensen told me. “It was men like your father who left babies at home that prevented it from happening.”
I relayed that message to my father, and it was one of the few moments in my life that I watched him cry.
Loyal to the Corps
There have been a number of moments where what he has committed to have hit me hard. But one in particular stands out.
On a Friday night after my son had graduated Infantry School and was home for a few days R and R, he came to game at Riverbend where he had played and where I was then coaching.
As the players lined up for the National Anthem, my son, who was on the sidelines with me, turned, faced the flag, and snapped to attention. His pride in his service palpable, his commitment to defend unquestionable, and his belief in the ideals of America unshakeable.
I think of my son today on his “birthday,” and the other Marines I know also celebrating their birthdays.
Recapturing that pride
To all Americans Vets, to all those now serving at home and abroad, and my son on the Marine Corps’ 248th birthday, Thank you from a grateful nation.
Let us all discover the pride these service people know, and live.
Martin Davis is editor-in-chief of FXBG Advance