My father was a military man in Uncle Sam’s segregated United States Navy in World War II. He was drafted so there was little choice in the matter. When my brother and I were children hanging around his feet, he never complained about that or anything else about that time, except when he described how cold it was when he was on that ship near the Aleutian Islands. I don’t doubt that it was plenty cold to a young man from East Texas…
After serving his time in the Navy to help secure freedom and peace for his country, my father returned to a segregated South where he had no right to vote, had to use The Green Book to navigate long distance travel by car, and could be refused service in restaurants and hotels, clothing stores and other establishments where he wasn’t wanted. And yet, he taught me to pledge allegiance to the U.S. flag and to sing the national anthem at the beginning of sporting events, and he bought me a subscription to Reader’s Digest Condensed Books when I was 11-years-old because he believed that this was America and that I could do anything I was brave enough to imagine in these United States if I were smart enough to make it happen.
Veterans Day is my opportunity to honor the faith my father had in the promises of this country. It affords me the chance to honor this man who fought for a freedom he didn’t yet have so that I could experience a freedom he prayed for me. Veterans Day is my chance to reflect on the life of this man who did whatever he had to, to make sure I had opportunities he believed he might never realize.
COVID-19 has altered the way I will celebrate Veterans Day this year. However, I’m still going to remember my father and to celebrate so many others: my father’s brother/my uncle and my brother-in-law, both Army men; my brother, an Air Force vet; and the women and men from other wars who returned to the silence of ingratitude and apathy, or the furor of anger and blame. They deserve to be honored because they gave of themselves for any and all of us who can claim a measure of freedom and hope in this country. Whether I agree with the basic validity of war or not, whether I support our nation’s putting its people in harm’s way to protect us and others or not, whether I am willing to do the same or not, my father did do it, as did my uncle, as did my brother, as did my brother-in-law, and for that alone I believe they deserve my respect and gratitude.
I invite others of you to join me in remembering the men and women who have sacrificed so that this country might stay free.