We sang America, The Beautiful yesterday morning in church as the parting hymn. The patriotic song consists of lyrics from a poem, America. A Poem for July 4, penned by Katherine Lee Bates in 1893 and music composed by Samuel A. Ward. The third verse always gives me pause and yesterday, the day before Veterans Day, was no different.
Veterans Day has a long history in our country, beginning with the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. To some, Veterans Day is nothing more than a regular day that just happens to be a federal holiday. But for us, like many others, Veterans Day is a time to honor those who have served our country in the armed services.
In our house, pictures of our grandfathers in uniform are displayed along side various items from Clay’s military career. Clay’s grandfather, pictured above right, commissioned into the Navy during the height of WWII. He served in the Pacific, marrying Clay’s grandmother before he deployed. Once the war was over, he became a jeweler in Ohio and raised a family, including a daughter (Clay’s mother). When Clay returned home from his deployments, his grandfather would call and offer tidbits of his own experience overseas. Sadly, like so many other WWII veterans, Clay’s grandfather passed away in 2011. His portrait hangs proud on our wall – a constant reminder of his service to our country.
My mother’s father (center) also served in WWII. Not too much is known of his military service because of his reluctance to talk about his experiences and the lasting effects the dreadful war had on his health. My grandfather also passed away in 2011, after spending the last years of his life in a VA nursing home.
He is buried at Great Lakes National Cemetery in Holly, Michigan, along side many other veterans. The other two pictures are my great-grandfathers, who served in WWI (the one on the left served in the Canadian Royal Forces). The black and white photographs of our grandfathers in uniform only tell a small portion of their military service story. But I like to think that their sacrifice of service lives on through the photographs displayed and days like today.
Veterans Day isn’t just a day to remember our grandfathers – there are living members of our families who have fought for our country and continue to do so. My Uncle Danny served in Vietnam. After his service, he married my Aunt Deb and the two of them settled in Michigan. As a Vietnam veteran, Uncle Danny didn’t hear “thank you” very much upon his return to the United States. It was a different time – the amount of hatred and disrespect shown toward the military was unparalleled. They deserve better. Thank you for your service, Uncle Danny. I am sorry you didn’t hear it enough.
Our brother-in-law, Edward, currently serves in the Army as a physician. He was an ROTC cadet at Clemson and when he began dating Martha (Clay’s sister), he started to put ideas in the head of an impressionable high school junior. Before long, Clay found himself applying for an ROTC scholarship and the rest is history. Edward recently returned home from another deployment to Afghanistan, so he is spending some well-deserved time with his family this Veterans Day.
And last, there is my favorite veteran of all. He doesn’t serve his country for accolades, he doesn’t work long hours and deploy to dangerous war-zones for free drinks at the bar, and he doesn’t put his country above himself because he is forced to. He wears a uniform because it is his job. A job that can be frustrating, unsafe, tiring, and rewarding beyond comprehension. But a job nonetheless. Thank you, Clay. Thank you not only for your service, but also for being an amazing husband and an incredible father. I can’t think of a better hero for our children to have – simply put, you’re amazing.
To each and every veteran – thank you. Thank you for your service. Without you, we wouldn’t be here today. Thank you.