I am always emotional on Veteran's Day. This year even more so since I was not with my brother Knights of Columbus in Virginia executing a Flag Retirement. In the past we hosted over 120-140 people. We'd provide flags to veterans, police and fire flown around the world at memorials and cemeteries. As I am now living in Georgia, I could not be a part of that great event this year.. Tonight my Cub Scout Den held a Veteran's Appreciation Ceremony for John 'Jack' Dehaven. We sang him songs, I gave him restored photos of him in WWII, listened to his stories and made it as special as possible for him. He sits behind my family at church, and is the most gentle guy you could meet. I laughed when I realized how he crossed paths with my grandmother in the Boston USO, and my Mom's family in the Leigh Valley of Pennsylvania (He is from Allentown). It really is a small world.
I've made it a habit to review my old photo collection and some old books every Veteran's Day. I was taken back by the power of photography to be 12 watching my Dad at Camp Zama, Japan, a 17 yr old cadet at West Point, 23 yr old LT again in Germany, 25 yr old Executive Officer in Bosnia, 28 yr old Commander in Kosovo...and the memories of the men and women I grew up with came back as a tidal wave. I love my life now with four children and a good job, but those days really helped me become the man I am today. They made me dream, gave me drive to succeed, care for people and a life full of experiences to take with me on my next set of journeys. I was blessed to serve, but never called to serve like my brother or recently retired Bradley crewmate SSG Thornburg of Phoenix City, Alabama. They gave so much more than ever asked of me, and I am humbled when I tally up the days away from "normal" life they racked up over the course of their careers. My commanders don't know how much I learned from them...I served under some pretty darn good men.
So here are some of the photos I shared tonight. They are a fraction of the photos I reviewed. A fraction of the memories and family history of service...a fraction of what is needed to keep us free. Even though some may not be in uniform...know they served with honor and distinction.