After He Took Off The Uniform.

Today is Veteran’s Day. The day we’ve officially set aside as a country to celebrate those who served in our military. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t love someone who’s put on a uniform. I don’t believe that there’s one or even a half dozen predetermined ways to honor them. For me, I think of those dear to me who served, and I think often of the nature of that service.

My Father In Law retired from the Air Force around the time She and I started dating. He retired a full Colonel, and there are things he did in service to the country that he is still not at liberty to discuss. He’s a man of impressive parts, and when I first met him he was one of the most complex people I’d ever met. Intelligent, self-assured, kind, open, impatient. Any room I ever saw him enter, he immediately became The Guy In Charge. And not because he demanded it but because he just seemed like he was. People naturally deferred to him. Here’s a quick example. At our wedding reception, like so many other receptions, we had a receiving line. You know, that short line of people shaking the hands of people in a longer line wanting to congratulate the short liners for their happy day. And my dear friend Dan is working his way through, smiling and congratulating. He steps in front of the crisply-uniformed Colonel, tosses him his car keys and said, “Don’t scratch it Sarge.” Yep, congratulates him, tosses him the keys saying “Don’t scratch it Sarge.”
The Colonel smiled and thanked Dan. Then put Dan’s keys in his pocket and moved on to the next person in line. Brilliant.

_____

My own father also served. He was a sailor. Riverboat patrol in Vietnam. He rarely talked about it, though he began to later in life. His service was brutal, by every metric. PTSD and Agent Orange ate at him for decades, eventually costing him his life. As my mom has said, it took him a long time, but he grew proud of his service, as well he should.

Please take a few minutes and read the history of the USS Merrick, hull number AKA-97. My dad would appreciate that.

Dad was one of those rare guys that worked every day to be a better person. He knew better than anyone of the darkness in the world and it never destroyed the kindness in him. No one who ever met him failed to see his generosity, or his wisdom.

It’s dad’s fault I’m an optimist. There’s one thing he taught me that sticks with me most. Whenever things turned dark for me, whenever I was overwhelmed or afraid, he’d say “It’ll all work out fine”. I always felt a little better when he said that, though it’d take years for me to tease out the depth of what he was saying. He meant don’t give up, and don’t give in. Stay positive, go to work on the problem. Work it small chunks at a time, and the next time you look up, you’re on the other side of all that shit. He meant for me to look at all the possibilities born from my failures, and the gift of course-correction.

Dad was a smart man.

So thanks to two of my favorite veterans. And thanks to yours.

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