Saturday, November 11, 2006
(The Confederate War Memorial, St. Augustine, Florida)
Yes, one of those young men and I share the same last name, he is the brother of my great,great grandfather. What's even more amazing to me is that, 100 years later, I went to school with kids who carried almost every one of those names. I don't know the names of earlier vets in my southern family, but I know on my Yankee mother's side there were some revolutionary war soldiers from Pennsylvania and some Union soldiers.
I was going to list the veterans in my family right now, but I was afraid I might leave someone out. Let's just say from World War II to the present war, off the top of my head, I counted 4 uncles, 8 cousins, 4 brother-n-laws, a father-n-law, and 3 nephews.
I am not a veteran.
There are lots of ways to serve your country, they are all valuable, but I still believe there is nothing quite as commendable as putting your life on the line for other people. I have a similar feeling for cops, paramedics, and other first responders, but this is not their day and the fact remains, on any given day, they can quit. I know, I've been there.
It's my opinion, based on conversations, commentary, and yes, blog posts, that a lot of people do not have direct contact with a soldier serving currently. I hear them discussed as abstract numbers or "the troops", but short of being one, I believe you have to know one to realize the true, daily sacrifices of military service.
Last year, on November 11th, I profiled one of my students I lost in Iraq. This year, I thought I'd introduce you to Kevin. He's a commenter here frequently, he's my buddy since Mrs. Blackmer's first grade classroom, and he's in the Persian Gulf with the Florida National Guard.
Kevin and I grew up together, that's him on the right, me on the left. We went to elementary school, were the first wave as 7th graders in the integration of the south, and finished high school together. We went on adventures together, chased girls together (caught some too), and always remained friends.
In 1976, I came home from the Marine recruiter's office all pumped up to find a college acceptance letter waiting on the kitchen table. I went to school. Kevin joined the Navy and travelled the world for a few years.
He eventually came home, married the beautiful Kelly and together they raised two great kids. After the Navy, he followed in his father's footsteps and became a full time member of the Florida National Guard. In the guard, he became a expert on helicopters.
During his career, I know he was deployed around the world several times and missed precious moments with his son, daughter, and wife that can not be regained.
( Above: Kevin with a Russky chopper)
Now at 48, he is in the Persian Gulf with the National Guard. He will be there for a year. His job is vital and the lives of every soldier who flies aboard his helicopters depend on the work he and his crew performs. There really isn't any room for mistakes.
365 days of being in the danger zone.
365 days of working long hours in harsh conditions.
365 days of living in cramped quarters with minimal privacy.
365 days of missing your wife and kids.
365 days of dealing long distance with all of the bills, ills, and obstacles that a family endures in a year.
365 days of worrying, long distance, about all the things we Dads stress over ... did they remember to lock the house, who's this new boyfriend?
365 days of missing the good times, Gator games, shrimping, the kingfish run ...
365 days of hoping that your deployment is just that and not extended.
365 days of knowing that if it is extended, you will stay until the job is done.
I can't think of a single sacrifice I made today.
Thank you Vets, past and present.
... and thank you Kevin.