Honoring Veterans Day
Usually Veterans Day is the one patriotic holiday I take to myself, usually enjoying it in Cabo San Lucas, but this year I will be here, in Indiana, celebrating it with my family and with The American Legion. As is customary for me, I will check in with guys I served with, and think of others that I'm not in contact with. I'm sure my ritual is no different than most of those who are reading this.
The National Commanders Veterans Day Speech has a poignant reminder of how our country has not always been so accepting of all veterans:
Carl Johnson’s life matters. A 90-year-old veteran in Virginia, Carl was the last Tuskegee Airman to graduate from the famed school that produced so many heroic African American aviators.
According to a recent article in the Washington Post, the U.S. Army issued Carl a train ticket for a Pullman sleeping car so he could get from Texas to Alabama for his military training in 1946.
Carl recalled being told by the station manager that he and his fellow black soldiers were not allowed to use the Pullman. “You have to go in coach,” they were ordered.
Threatened with jail if they resisted, the soldiers rode for 24 hours and were denied the use of the train’s dining car as well.
Despite the indignities, Carl would continue to treat his country better than many of his fellow citizens treated him.
Carl would extend his military service for another three decades, serving in the Korean and Vietnam Wars. He would earn a Distinguished Flying Cross and 10 Air Medals and retire as a colonel.
About 9 years ago I went on a horse ride with my buddy and other veterans through Montana. It was him and I, two Airborne guys, two Navy SEALs and a Marine with 3 cowboys. It ranks right there with my Grand Canyon Trips as the best trip I've ever taken. My buddy and I stayed in a cabin and tent with the Airborne guys, and we stayed up way too late each night swapping stories and jokes over a few adult beverages. One of them was Ryan Pitts, who would receive his Medal of Honor a few years later, and the other was his buddy, Mike Denton, himself a Silver Star Medal recipient. You can actually see a lot of Mike in our video we did honoring Ryan:
Anyway, after Mike got out of the military he became a law enforcement officer with NASA (yeah, I didn't know they had them either) and then later became a police officer in Orlando, Florida. The Orlando PD itself did a video of Mike the other day to highlight how many veterans they are hiring. You can view that video by CLICKING HERE.
On this Veterans Day, I will actually be at a ceremony for the family of a man who died in Normandy, but who never was awarded any medals despite having been killed in action. It was obviously an oversight, but it was never corrected until earlier this year, when a Legionnaire and former special forces soldier from Kentucky heard about it, and set out to correct this oversight. I'll have more on this next week.
But in addition to the friends I served with personally, I'll be dedicating myself to thinking about others like Carl Johnson and Mike Denton that I didn't get to serve with.
Either way, it is your day. Go and celebrate as you see fit, but be sure to check in with those you served with. Our duty to our unit doesn't end just because we took the uniform off.