November is an interesting month in that we take this time to remember to be thankful for things we should have been feeling thankful for during the entire year.
Of course, this is the case for Thanksgiving, but it is not the only holiday of thankfulness in November. Like Thanksgiving, Veterans Day is a day when we are asked to be thankful for what we have, in this case honorable men and women sacrificing for the very existence of our country. Like the blessings we overlook until the fourth Thursday in November, we often take our veterans' selflessness for granted outside of Nov. 11.
I've done many stories over the years about veterans, both alive and deceased. I helped hunt down photographs of Vietnam veterans killed in action for a digital memorial wall a few years ago. It wasn't long after that I helped share the diary writings of Dwight Maher, who died overseas in Vietnam. My writings have included stories about soldiers Stephen Amy, Ted Lundrigan, Sam Sater, Corey Dabrowski and many more who served our country.
Somehow, I haven't mentioned my own family that often.
My family has/had several veterans, including my grandfather who fought in World War II and my Uncle Dean who died of cancer possibly related to his service in Vietnam. My father could have possibly shared the same fate, but he thankfully did not serve in combat.
Dad's service came up in conversation recently with Dale Kriens, an old neighbor and World War II veteran featured on page A1 of this Echo Journal. I knew Dale had a connection to my dad already, because my dad was excited to announce to me recently that he was exactly 30 years younger than Dale. They share a birthday. Dale and Mabel (Dale's wife) pointed out that they were also both in the 82nd Airborne, which is a pretty cool coincidence.
I'll admit, there is plenty that I mean to ask Dad about regarding his time in the service. He's told us some stories of what he considered fun times in the military. He's always been a rather big guy, the result of growing up a farm boy and moving on to become a construction laborer I'm sure, and I always knew he wasn't exactly afraid to throw his weight around.
That being said, it apparently earned him respect among his fellow soldiers, not just in his own branch of service.
Apparently holding his own on base earned him a place of honor among a bunch of card-playing Marines who would normally shun soldiers in the Army, like my dad. What can I say, he also has a fairly liquid personality, in that he can blend in with virtually any circle of people so long as he wants to.
It's that quality that makes him almost universally respected among people I meet from time to time. I usually get big smiles and a brief recollection from them, even if this is the first time I have ever met them.
"Oh, are you Tom's boy? I remember when Tom ..."
A person can only hope to grow to be as well respected. It's nothing you can force and my dad came by it through hard work and a lot of integrity where it mattered. I'm sure military service didn't make him less dignified or dull his willingness to work hard, but beyond that I guess I can't really guess what his personality may have been like before boot camp, compared to after boot camp.
It was possibly very similar, considering my grandfather, Harry Grimler, commanded much the same respect from those who knew him. I don't remember Grandpa as much as I would like; he died when I was very young, but I bet Dad didn't fall far from the tree. He's gruff, loyal, dependable and yes, a bit stubborn. I've heard the same about Grandpa, once even from a judge.
I bet Grandma and Grandpa would be proud to have my dad as a son, at least as proud as I am to have him as a father.
To my dad, my grandparents, uncles, my friends and all our amazing veterans: Thank you for your service. America will always be great, so long as we have people like you.