Hats off to the folks who did their part


November 9, 2017 | View PDF

As a youngster growing up in the South, I relished the times when my brother, Danny, my ex-brother-in-law, Bobby Young, or uncles Walter and Rodney would come around and tell everyone of their experiences in the U.S. armed services.

Those stories had a huge impact on the youngest son of a third-grade dropout. I was thrilled with the adventuresome stories they told, and of the things they saw. At a very young age, I decided I was going to serve in the military when I got older—although the stories of leeches that got between my brother’s toes and fingers during his two tours in Vietnam made me certain I wasn’t going to join the U.S. Marines. I can do anything but leeches or bell pepper.

To be sure, Bobby had a more positive effect on me. A veteran of the U.S. Army and the U.S. Navy, Bobby told me of sailing on big ships and traveling to distant lands. At that point, the farthest I had ever been was from Houston to Odessa in West Texas. Since I love the water, I figured the Navy was the place for me ... so I joined.

I did it quietly, mind you. My father wasn’t overly thrilled at the thought of his youngest son joining the U.S. Navy. He would, he said, work harder for me to go to college and become something. He’s still waiting on the “become something” part. ...

One day as we were driving to his job I worked up the nerve to ask him, “Dad, what do you think of me joining the Navy?”

My father was never one to waste words.

“I don’t think about it at all,” he said.

If your father is anything like mine, then you knew that subject was effectively off the table at that point. Don’t get my father wrong, he was as patriotic as any man who ever lived, and had even volunteered to go to Korea. The idea of the son he had nursed to health as a premature 7-month infant being in the military wasn’t something he was willing to chance, even though I was now 22.

To make a long story short, I did enlist in the U.S. Navy. And when my sister told my father what I had done (after I had already left for basic training at Great Lakes), I know he was proud. He even told me so, saying I could always get a job as an ice cream salesman when I got out.

While I was in the Navy, I developed a grand respect for everyone who served our country. Personally, I didn’t do anything but put a lot of paint on the USS Manitowoc (LST-1180) and USS Boulder (LST-1190), but the hard work, sacrifice and commitment made by those who served before me was profoundly impressive.

And I met some friends I have stayed in contact with over the years—Brian Galle, Ed Turley, Mike Nelson, John Dibbens. Each, in his own way, I’m sure has been thrilled to served this country of ours.

So, from me and mine, here’s a heartfelt thank-you to all veterans. No matter where you served or when, know this, we’re proud as heck of you, and grateful.


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