“In the beginning of a change, the patriot is a scarce man, and brave, and hated and scorned. When his cause succeeds, the timid join him. For then it costs nothing to be a patriot.” - Mark Twain
Last night I had the distinct privilege of attending a Veteran’s Day concert at Bernard Middle School here in St Louis. My stepdaughter, Ellie, is in the school choir. She was very excited about not only her first concert, but to be honoring what she already considers a very deserving segment of our society. The entire production was very well put together and the songs chosen were as respectful as they were enjoyable. The large group of veterans in attendance appeared to have a good time.
Ellie sang her heart out when called upon to do so. She even developed a little “southern Baptist head-bob” action I hadn’t seen before. The smile on her face throughout the presentation told me the nervousness she felt all day leading up to the concert vanished as she released the first note.
I also had several “teachable moments” with Aidan, my 6 year old son, throughout the evening.(Brace yourselves liberals; I’m about to talk about “traditional family values” and patriotism. Seek shelter.) Aidan has always been fascinated with the military in all it’s glorious forms. Of course, his knowledge thus far has been limited to the things he’s seen in Transformers movies, and anything covering the topic of SuperHeroes. He’s also keenly aware of the fact his “Pop-Pop” (my Dad) was a pilot in the Air Force. Jets are just about the coolest thing imaginable to a boy Aidan’s age, so the fact that his grandpa flew one makes for fantastic street cred in First Grade circles. During last night’s presentation, Sergeant First Class David Keefer, in full dress blues, spoke in his distinctly Army tone with his distinctly Army humor. His jokes were clean, his words were clear, his presence was commanding, and his message was sincere. Aidan was mesmerized.
SFC Keefer brought up a good point during his opening address. It is his opinion that “before one can lead this country, one must have fought for this country.” While I certainly agree with the sentiments behind that statement, I understand the reality of the world in which we live would never allow such a restriction to be enforced. Can you imagine the ACLUrection the liberal side of our legal system would be sporting of we attempted to pass such a law? No, SFC Keefer; your heart’s in the right place, but I think the best we can hope for is that we vote for someone in the next election who can, at a bare minimum, prove that he’s from this country.
Every year, on Veteran’s Day, I read articles, hear news stories, and listen to DJ’s on the radio saying to “thank a vet today.” While the idea of thanking a vet is always there, I must say that I’ve never come out and done it in words. I have worked closely with the Armed Forces in my career, and will always feel a higher sense of commitment to the traditions, values, and community of the military than most. Today, I would like to thank the important people in my life that have served honorably and voluntarily.
“ Grant to our armed forces that disciplined valor and mutual confidence which insures success in war. Let me not mourn for the men who have died fighting, but rather let me be glad that such heroes have lived. If it be my lot to die, let me do so with courage and honor in a manner which will bring the greatest harm to the enemy, and please, oh Lord, protect and guide those I shall leave behind. Give us the victory, Lord.” - General George S. Patton
Dad – Your service to our country in a time when such noble pursuits were openly opposed by hippies, easily fooled’s, and Jane Fonda has always been a source of inspiration. One of my earliest memories is of our backyard in Big Spring; sitting in the grass and imagining every jet flying overhead was you. The flight pattern was such that a turn was generally made just over the house, and I naturally assumed that was you waving your wings at me from above. (Facts like you sitting in the living room watching a Cowboys game at the time didn’t matter. EVERY plane was you!) Your continued dedication to all things military during your 35 year career after the Air Force didn’t go unnoticed either. Thank you.
Tater – Army may have been kind of an “escape plan” at the time you enlisted, but your service made you the man you are today. Without the disciplined lifestyle and the structure of military life, I think we can all agree you’d be a wandering idiot! You voluntarily entered the military at a time when our President was bombing anybody capable of deflecting attention from the fact he was diddling fat-chicks. You spent time away from your family, your freedoms, and your security so that we could enjoy all three. Thank you.
Ted & Karen – You are two of the greatest people I know and your children are going to have a drive for success that only the military could have instilled in your family. Your love of Philadelphia sports is the reason you get no pictures next to your acknowledgement! Bad Flucks! Thank you.
Bill – Your time in Somalia and the personal stories you have shared with me about the experience have served as more inspiration than you will ever know. Thank you.
Barry – Six years as a POW and you are one of the best patriots I know. While I may not always agree with your fashion choices, your status as a hero was solidified long ago. Thank you.
Chad – Your self-discipline and commitment to values (minus the Chinook-ing) came at a time in my life when such things would have otherwise been easily abandoned. Your military service formed you. The fact you came out of the Army with as many of your values intact as you did is more impressive to me than anything else you will ever do. Thank you.
These are just a few of the people from my life deserving of thanks on this special day. There are many, many more, but these are the ones I think of most often when I try to teach my son a lesson of courage, or when I need a shot of inspiration myself.
To all of the men and women who have ever worn the uniform of our military; to all those who have shed blood, sweat, and friends so that we may sleep comfortably back home; to those who define courage as an intense will to live backed by a readiness to die; and to those of you who will be called “veterans” when your current commitment comes to an end – THANK YOU!!
As always, thanks for playing.
J Robert Giles