Walking in Chicago this morning, I was stopped by a group of nonprofit workers with change buckets asking for support of our veterans. I emptied my change purse, and apologized to them that I didn’t have additional cash. And I was delighted when they told me they were honoring vets today at Union Station. They asked, did I know a veteran, and would I like to write his or her name on a star to put up at Union Station? I said I did, and I beamed as I wrote down my father’s name.
Veteran’s Day does a lot of things for a lot of people. It reminds us of the men and women who served our country selflessly. It gives veterans an opportunity to revisit their time overseas and in the military, both good and bad. And it provides a platform for our country, as a whole, to reflect on their work. But for me, it does something else. It reminds me of the person who fought so hard for me to have the opportunity I’ve been so blessed to have in my life. And it puts my sometimes “complicated” life into perspective.
My father grew up the son of a farmer, and it was expected that he too would be a farmer. He thought differently. So at 18 years old, my dad packed his bags and joined the Navy. There, he learned a trade, and eventually rose to the top of his field with hard work and dedication. He is respected by his colleagues nationwide, and I’m so proud of him when I hear he’s been asked to speak at a conference or called on the weekends because one of the “new guys” couldn’t figure something out.
You see, I believe my father made every decision, including the one he made joining the Navy so that my brother and I could be successful. And when I think about him on a Naval ship in 1968, maybe it’s romanticized, but I think he did that for me. Those men, including my father, served our country, but more than that they worked to provide a stable life for their families and improve their children’s futures. My father “walked the walk” of a soldier in 1968 and he does so now.
So here I sit, in my ivory tower – a college education, a phenomenal job, a husband and extended family I love…and it’s all because a young veteran decided he wanted to give his children opportunity. That, my friends, is what Veteran’s Day means to me. It means my dad. My veteran.