My dad was a World War II veteran. Like many in his generation, he signed up expecting to be sent overseas to fight against tyranny and to protect American soil. Fortunately, he never left the USA.
A Naval airman, he taught in flight schools stateside. He downplayed his military service perhaps because he knew so many who were shipped out.
One of our neighbors, Frank Promnitz, was a “guest of the emperor.” His experiences as a Japanese prisoner of war were recounted in a book of the same name, authored by Lee K. Bergee. Another close friend was captured during the Battle of the Bulge. Both came home, and thankfully, so did my many uncles who served in various service branches during WWII.
Though my dad downplayed his own service, he had tremendous respect for military men and women. He taught that respect to his eight kids, though none of us served.
My husband, however, is a veteran with 13 years of Army and Guard service to his credit. I’m always proud when people thank him for his service. I’m old enough to remember a time when military members where not treated with that honor.
I think one of the proudest moments in my dad’s life was when my nephew graduated from West Point. It is a tradition in the Army that newly commissioned second lieutenants present a silver dollar to the first enlisted soldier who salutes them. As my nephew, Jake, came up to my family after graduation, my father saluted him, and Jake passed my dad a shiny silver dollar. He kept that dollar in a frame with a photo of him and Jake where he saw it each day until he passed away. Then, my mom passed the dollar back to Jake.
Jake’s not the only one of my dad’s grandchildren to serve. Jake’s brother Matt spent 20 years in the National Guard. Their cousin Joe is in his 18th year of service to the Army, most of which has been as a Golden Knight.
When former President George H. W. Bush skydived in tandem with Sgt. Michael Elliott of the Army Golden Knights parachute team in celebration of his 85th birthday on June 12, 2009, my nephew was the jumper photographing the historic event in mid-air.
Dad passed away before having the chance to meet Joe’s wife, an Army helicopter pilot. I know he would be proud of her service, too.
Pride, respect, gratitude – this is what our military men and women deserve from all of us who enjoy freedom and safety because of them.
This Veterans Day and every day, when you meet a veteran on the street remember to say, “Thank you for your service.” It’s a little gesture that means a lot.
– Kate Uptergrove