On the day in their honor, I'll write a bit about some of the veterans in my life. I have several, including some uncles that have passed away, but I'll write about three in particular.
First, my cousin Greg. Greg is a couple of months younger than me, and we were always close as kids. After high school, he joined the Marines, and spent several years with them (although, once a Marine, always a Marine, right?). He did a tour of duty in the Phillipines, and while he was there, they experienced a terrible earthquake. He spent some time recovering bodies from the rubble, and he said it was something he will never forget. He went to Iraq for the first Gulf War, and that was the first time I ever saw extensive coverage on the news (I was too young during the Viet Nam War coverage). I spent quite a few nights staying up and watching CNN, hoping and praying that he'd be okay. He came home safe and sound, but has since experienced some health problems due to the fumes he inhaled when the oil fields were set on fire. I remember him talking about Humvees. I think that was the first time they were used by the military. He said they were amazing, and could go up an incline over 45°. However, he also said that he had to sleep in one for a couple of weeks, and if he never sat in another one, he'd be happy. Thank you, Greg.
Next is my brother-in-law, Tom, who is married to my oldest sister, Diana. Tom was also a Marine, and did a tour of duty in Viet Nam. He never speaks much about it, but once, several years ago when I lived in Indianapolis, we got to talking on the phone. He told me a few things, and I can't begin to tell you what respect and admiration I have for Tom. Tom was the radio operator, and he told me how the radios at that time had a whip antenna that was about 20 feet high. They'd have to stop, and he'd put up the antenna...and obviously, something that high was the first target. Knock out the radio operator, isolate the group, and pick 'em off. Tom made it through, mind and body intact, and he has two wonderful daughters, my nieces Heather and Jennifer. He recently became a grandfather. Tom is a peach, and one of my favorite people ever. Thank you, Tom. Semper fi.
Finally, my Dad. Dad is a WWII veteran. He enlisted in the Army right after high school, and spent time in North Africa and Italy. In his family, he was one of four brothers who were in the service during WWII. It still pains him to think about how much his mother suffered with that burden, but they all came home. I remember seeing "Saving Private Ryan" with my Dad at the theater, and holding his hand during the beach scene. And as I've written before, my family went to the dedication of the WWII Memorial a few years ago, and it was a very special thing for us all to be there for my Dad, as well as my Mom, because the weekend a was a tribute to the Greatest Generation. When we were at the Holocaust Museum, one of the tour guides saw Dad's WWII veteran cap and started crying. She said, "I'm sorry, but whenever I see one of you...thank you." We took the Metro everywhere, and at one point, a guy who was with his little daughter--she was maybe five or six--stopped Dad. He said to his daughter, "Honey, here's one of the guys I was telling you about. What do you say?" The little girl looked up at my Dad, shook his hand, and said, "Thank you." The guy then shook Dad's hand and thanked him, too. I will never forget that. Thank you, Dad, for so much.
And thank you to everyone who has served, whether during peacetime or war. You are all very much appreciated.