Tagged: veteran tribute
It’s Fun Friday! Have you been counting down (and singing along) with us to find out who the Top Ten Military Musicians have been? Well, today’s fun is finding out who is #1. Let’s get going…
2. John Philip Sousa
John Phillip Sousa – best known for his immortal compositions that are still standards for military bands to this day – got his start from his father, a trombonist in the U.S. Marine Corps Band. Sousa’s father brought the 13-year-old Sousa into the Marine Band as a ploy to keep him from joining the circus. Sousa served an apprenticeship in the Marine Band, then learned to conduct as head of a pit orchestra, before returning to the Marine Band as its leader in 1880. He served in that position until 1892, mostly at the rank of sergeant major.
“These talking machines are going to ruin the artistic development of music in this country.” — The visionary John Philip Sousa on the infant recording industry.
His list of notable compositions includes:
- Semper Fidelis, the official march of the USMC
- The Liberty Bell
- Stars and Stripes Forever, the national march of the United States
- U.S. Field Artillery, the official song of the United States Army (more commonly known as The Army Goes Rolling Along)
In addition, Sousa wrote a number of operettas – popular in the late 1800s – including Desiree, The Smugglers, El Capitan, Chris and the Wonderful Lamp, and The American Maid, or the Glass Blowers.
During World War One, Sousa was commissioned a lieutenant commander in the U.S. Naval Reserve, and put in charge of the Navy Band at Great Lakes Naval Station. While assigned there, Sousa donated is entire salary except for one dollar to the Sailors and Marines Relief Fund.
He died of heart failure in 1932, at the age of 77, one of the best-loved American composers in history.
1. Glenn Miller
Our selection for the greatest military musician in American history is Glenn Miller. There was never much doubt about where he would fall, under any criteria. Alone among the incredible musicians on this list, Major Glenn Miller was the only musician to have made the ultimate sacrifice in the service of his country – missing and presumed KIA when his small aircraft disappeared over the English Channel.
Miller was born in Clarinda, Iowa in 1904, and learned trombone, cornet and mandolin as a child. He started his first dance and swing ensemble while still in high school, and was already a professional musician when he graduated.
During the 20s and 30s, he made a living as a freelance trombonist, back in the days when trombonists could still make a living as freelance trombonists.
“America means freedom and there’s no expression of freedom quite so sincere as music.” –Glenn Miller, 1944
Miller wrote his first tune, Room 1411, with another legend of big band, Benny Goodman, and also wrote his signature tune, Moonlight Serenade, while still in his early 20s. He played in two orchestra pits for the Broadway productions of Strike Up the Band and Girl Crazy, with two other musicians who would soon become legends in their own right, Gene Krupa and Benny Goodman.
Miller also played as a sideman along with Goodman, Jimmy Dorsey and swing violinist Joe Venuti in the All-Star Orchestra under the direction of Nat Shilkret. Later, Miller became a trombonist, arranger and composer with The Dorsey Brothers.
As a bandleader, Miller was a relentless perfectionist, and rehearsed his band thoroughly.
When the war broke out, Miller was already established. He was 38, too old for the draft, and he didn’t have to serve. Nonetheless, he volunteered to serve in the Navy, but was rejected. He then wrote to the Army, and asked to “be placed in charge of a modernized Army band.” He went in at the rank of captain and was soon promoted to major.
He then started a large marching band, which would become a sort of feeder system into the Army and Army Air Force stage bands. Miller eventually put together a 50-piece band for the Army Air Force and flew them to England, where they gave over 800 performances for American and British troops. General Jimmy Doolittle, the Medal of Honor recipient and leader of the famous Doolittle raid, said of Miller’s band, “Next to a letter from home, that organization was the greatest morale builder in the European Theater of Operations.”
Miller’s compositions and arrangements became mainstays in the jazz/swing repertoire, and attained iconic status. Among his works:
- In the Mood
- Moonlight Serenade
- Chattanooga Choo-Choo
- Fools Rush In
- Pennsylvania 6-500
- Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree (With Anyone Else But Me)
Glenn Miller’s musical journey ended on December 15th, 1944, when his single-engine aircraft disappeared over the English Channel while Miller was on his way to a performance in France. No trace of Miller’s body nor the aircraft was ever found.
So what do you think of our list? Hopefully your toes are tapping and you’re humming a few tunes. Enjoy your weekend. We’ll see you here next week!
This world is full of singers – but few are chosen to tear your heart out when they sing.
George Jones was one of the few, and not just because he was a U.S. Marine.
Legendary country singer, songwriter and U.S. Marine Corps veteran George Jones passed away on April 26th, 2013. He was 81. True to his form in the country smash hit, “I Don’t Need Your Rocking Chair,” he was still touring in his 80s, and was scheduled to play a show in Alabama the following night.
And he never did need your damned Geritol.
Jones, heralded by many musicians as the greatest country singer who ever lived, was survived by his fourth wife, Nancy Sepulvado, whom he married in 1983. With her influence and support, Jones was able to remain (mostly) sober for the last 20 years or so of his life – a circumstance that was at once uncharacteristic and fortuitous, because it likely saved his life.
Jones enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps in the 1950s, when the Korean War was still raging. However, he did his entire enlistment in California, and never saw combat. Which was good for us, because we got the benefit of hearing perhaps the greatest country singer the world has ever seen.
“Every note he ever sang you could carve in granite,” said Mark O’Connor, a legendary fiddler who played on several of Jones’s songs as a Nashville studio musician.
“I think some people were just born to do certain things,” said Garth Brooks. “George was born to sing country music.”
Frank Sinatra called him “the second best white singer in America.”
“Of course, he will always be the greatest singer and interpreter of real country music—there’ll never be another,” said Alan Jackson, upon learning of Jones’s death.
This writer, a lifelong musician, agrees. No one ever got more inside a song than George Jones did.
Jones’s first number one hit came in 1959 with White Lightning’. He also had three number one hits, We’re Gonne Hold On (1973), Golden Ring (1976) and Near You (1977) with Tammy Wynette, who was his wife from 1969 to 1975. His final studio album was with Dolly Parton.
He is, perhaps, best known for his legendary 1980 hit, He Stopped Loving Her Today, a heartbreaker of a song that has dropped more tears into more beers in more smoke-filled honkey-tonks than any other song in the history of mankind and I will bet no one will challenge me on that.
As an experiment, I played a live version of George Jones singing it to a 33-year-old who had never heard of George Jones before I mentioned he died. She burst into tears in the 2nd verse. That’s how good he was.
RIP, Possum. Thanks for your service to this great country, and thanks to your contributions to our great musical tradition.
It’s going to be tough to fill your shoes.
Jonathan Winters, a legendary comedian and the widely acknowledged king of improvisational comedy – and a U.S. Marine Corps World War Two veteran, passed away last week. He was 87 years old. Winters got his start as a comedian in the late 1950s and early 1960s.
Mr. Winters is best known to younger audiences for his appearances on the 1970s television show “Mork & Mindy,” though he came to national prominence with appearances on the Jack Paar Show and Steve Allen Show in the 1960s. He also appeared in the movies The Russians Are Coming! The Russians Are Coming! and It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.
Winters was a huge influence on Robin Williams and many other improvisational comedians of later generations. Here is Winters at his sublime best, improvising on being handed a stick on the Jack Paar show in 1964.
Winters dropped out of high school and enlisted in the Marine Corps during World War Two, at the age of 17. He served as a gunner aboard the aircraft carrier USS Bon Homme Richard during the final months of the war against Japan.
Here is Winters starring opposite Jack Klugman in the Twilight Zone episode, “A Game of Pool,” in which Winters says the line, “As long as people speak your name you continue. The legend doesn’t die, just because the man does.”
Rest in peace, Mr. Winters.
A time to honor our former and current service members, Veterans Day was originally set aside as an American holiday to commemorate the ending of World War I on November 11, 1918. Originally called “Armistice Day,” November 11, 1938 was “dedicated to the cause of world peace, and to be hereafter celebrated and known as ‘Armistice Day.”
In the years that followed, American soldiers served in the Second World War and the Korean War. The 83rd U.S. Congress changed the Act of 1938, replacing the word “Armistice” with “Veterans” at the suggestion of veterans’ service organizations. When it was approved in June of 1954, November 11 became Veterans Day: A day to honor American veterans, living and deceased, who served our country in all wars.
The distinction between Memorial Day and Veterans Day is one that many Americans struggle with, according to the VA. Memorial Day is a day set aside to remember and honor military service members who died in service or as a result of war-inflicted injuries. The Veterans Day holiday is set aside to thank and honor both living and deceased veterans who served honorably in war or in peace.
Each year, the Department of Veterans Affairs hosts a national celebration ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery, as well as several other regional ceremonies across the country. The national service begins each November 11 at 11 a.m. by placing a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns. A parade of colors by veterans’ organizations progresses the service into the Memorial Amphitheater, where typically there are remarks by dignitaries to honor and thank all those who served and serve in the United States Armed Forces.
Over the past few years, a program launched by the History Channel has garnered popularity: Take a Vet to School Day created to bridge veterans and students across the country. Schools are encouraged to invite veterans to visit, share their stories, and receive thanks for their service. These events provide a unique way for students to hear real stories from real veterans, express their gratitude and show support. The veterans’ stories help connect generations and help young people learn about the past.
Whether or not you know someone who is serving or has served, taking time to honor and remember veterans is something that demonstrates respect for their service to our nation. Below are some ways that you can celebrate veterans this November 11.
Visit a Battleground: Most battleground memorials are managed by the National Park Service, and offer thoughtful, often poignant insights into the lives and circumstances of the people involved. There are battle sites in nearly every state, and they offer a variety of opportunities to teach children of all ages about history, war, and the sacrifices of veterans and their families.
Communicating With the Troops: Send a soldier a care package to say thank you. This is a wonderful way to show appreciation and to bring them a little bit of the comforts of home.
Learn Flag Etiquette: Far too often, our flag is displayed incorrectly or goes neglected, which is something that most veterans find offensive and disrespectful. One of the simplest ways to honor a veteran is to be respectful to the United States flag. Read about proper treatment, care, hanging and flying of our flag and teach your child proper flag protocol.
Volunteer at a VA hospital: If you have a VA hospital in your community, call them or stop by to find out what kind of volunteer opportunities they have available. Whether you can spend an hour a week or several hours a day, any amount of time you can devote to serving those who have served us is a fantastic way to honor our nation’s veterans.
This November 11, take time to reflect on the heroic men and women who have fought to secure the freedom we enjoy today. Whether you participate in a formal ceremony or simply say “thank you” to a uniformed service member, show them that their sacrifices are not taken for granted.
As is tradition, every year businesses pay tribute to military service members and veterans on Veterans Day by offering discounts on their products or services.
Not all franchises participate in their corporate programs, so before you get your heart set on something you see below, make sure to call your local shop to verify their participation. And speaking of verification, make sure you bring proof of your military service: a VA Universal Access Card, Military I.D., Veterans Service Organization Card (VFW, AmVets, DAV, FRA, American Legion or MOAA), or discharge papers.
Below is a list of restaurants offering free or discounted meals for Veterans Day:
Sunday, Nov. 11, 2012:
Applebee’s – Free meal; Choose from 7 entrées; beverage and gratuity not included.
Bar Louie America – Free meal up to $10 in value, and a free non-alcoholic beverage.
BD’s Mongolian Grill – 1/2 off Stir-fry
California Pizza Kitchen – Free meal and non-alcoholic beverage
Champps Americana – Free Pepperjack Bacon Stack Burger or free Kobe Burger
Chili’s Restaurant – Free meal, choose from one of 7 meal options; available 11 am – 5 p.m.; beverages and gratuity not included.
Famous Daves – Free or discounted meals; varies by location.
Hooters – Get 10 Free Wings – Boneless or Regular, drink purchase required
Krispy Kreme – free doughnut
Longhorn Steakhouse – free Texas Tonion and non-alcoholic beverage
Max & Erma’s – free Best Cheeseburger in America Combo, which includes tortilla soup or side Caesar salad, seasoned fries, and chocolate chip cookies
McCormick and Schmicks – free lunch or dinner entrée. Reservations highly recommended.
On the Border – mention the “Sizzling Salute to Veterans” special and On the Border will donate 15% of your purchase to Carry the Load, a non-profit military organization. Veterans and Service members with ID receive a certificate for a free entree (up to $10) valid from 11/12/12 thru 11/30/12.
Outback Steakhouse – free Bloomin’ Onion and a Coca-Cola product during the week leading up to Veteran’s Day; receive 10% off your purchase from Nov. 13-Dec 31, 2012
Red Lobster – free appetizer (from a select list of appetizers)
Subway – Free Sandwich
Texas Corral – Free entrée (dine-in only). All Texas Corral locations also regularly offer a 50% discount to military personnel dining in.
The Olive Garden – Free entrée from a special menu; all entrées inlcude freshly baked garlic sticks and choice of soup or salad.
Tim Hortons – free donut
UNO’s pizza – Free individual pizza or entrée with the purchase of a pizza or entrée of equal or greater value
Monday, November 12
Cheeseburger in Paradise – Free meal from select menu; Beverages and gratuity not included
Denny’s – Free all you can eat pancakes from 6 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Golden Corral – The 12th annual Golden Corral Military Appreciation dinner
Hy-Vee – Free Breakfast 7am – 11am at all Hy-Vee supermarkets with in-store dining
Little Caesars Pizza – free Crazy Bread®
Lone Star Steakhouse – free entrée from the Stars & Stripes Menu
Red Robin – Free Red’s Tavern Double and Bottomless Steak Fries
Sizzler Restaurant – Free lunch served until 4pm. Choice of 3 entrees.
Texas Roadhouse – Choose from one of 10 free meals, plus sides and a drink
T.G.I.-Fridays – Free Lunch
It’s a chilly fall morning in Elkhorn. The sky is a brilliant blue, the grass is still green, and the trees that still cling to what few leaves they have are showing off their jewel-inspired colors. The air smells vaguely of campfire. It’s a great day to be out and about.
Along with thousands of people in my county of residence, I lined up at the polling place bright and early this morning, wearing my patient pants and excited about participating in the democratic process. My polling place is the chapel of a sprawling retirement home, the kind at which I can only dream about residing some day. I follow the directions on my yellow voter’s card and walk toward the main entrance, where I am greeted by a smiling older woman with kind face. She points me down a hallway to my right, where I am immediately greeted by two more sweet older ladies. They’re standing by a thick wooden table that’s covered with coffee urns, trays of muffins and stacks of fruit, napkins, and assorted coffee sweeteners. “Help yourself to refreshments now or when you’re done,” say the guardians of the goodness. I look to my right at the growing line of citizen voters and abandon the refreshment table. Afterward, I decide. I have a feeling these ladies keep the table well stocked at all times.
I take my place in line, where I am one of only a handful of people who are not dressed smartly in either corporate or military uniform. There are at least 45-55 people ahead of me, and I noticed that across the hall from me was a barber shop, complete with striped pole and red curtained windows when I heard a strange electronic beeping noise coming from somewhere in line. I looked around and noticed the source of the sound: an elementary aged boy waiting with his mother, playing a handheld game console, and if my hands hadn’t been full with my wallet and polling card, I would’ve smacked my forehead. I say to no one in particular, “Aw, I should have brought my son so he could see this.”
To my surprise, the woman standing in front of me in line turned around and said, “I was just thinking the same thing. How great would that have been, for kids to see what democracy is about.”
We made small talk for a bit, the kind where you ask about the kids’ ages and schools they attend. The conversation was pleasant and quiet and it certainly helped the waiting time pass more quickly. We steered clear of sensitive subjects like who we would vote for and political platforms, and I couldn’t help notice that when people passed by us on the way out of the polling booth, my conversation partner smiled broadly and proudly at them. I asked, “Is it just me, or do you want to cheer for people when they’re done voting?”
She laughed, “I do! The fact that we are able to participate is very special to me,” she said. Her words humbled me as she went on. She described how ever since she was a kid, she has cried each time she’s voted. “When you think about it, thousands of people died so I can stand here. People today are dying to protect us as we stand here.” Her eyes welled with tears and I could see that she was reflecting on someone in particular. “It’s silly,” she said, wiping her eyes and opening her purse to dig inside. “It’s not silly at all,” I replied.
We waited quietly for only a few minutes more until she was administered her ballot and moved into the private voting area; I followed another few minutes behind.
I’ve voted in nearly every election I could since I turned 18. I’m not proud to tell you that this year I’ve become a little jaded, what with the onslaught of obnoxious advertising, campaigning and armchair quarterbacking of every candidates’ move. Before I stood in line on this beautiful morning, I was mostly grateful that we would soon be rid of that aspect of the process, at least for a little while. But that conversation in line reminded me of something I should have been mindful of from the beginning: That voting is a sacred act, a privilege paid for by the blood and effort of thousands of people. I cast my vote, and with it I gave thanks for all who made my voting possible.
November 11th is Veterans Day. And every year, there are more and more special deals for veterans. Veterans get a free meal or at least an appetizer out of the deal – and the businesses themselves get to generate some brand goodwill for themselves – and reach customers they might otherwise never see. It’s a win-win.
Our colleague Ryan Guina at TheMilitaryWallet does a great job of doing the roundup every year. He’s been at it since 2008, so full credit to him.
A few highlights:
- Applebee’s offers a good selection of free entrees each year. This year you can choose from seven of them.
- The Golden Corral Veteran’s Day buffet I went to last year was fantastic. In that Air Force chow hall kind of way. Golden Corral does a first-rate job – and has donated more than $6 million to Disabled American Veterans over the years. 4 to 9 p.m. only.
- Hooters. God bless America. Ok, all you get are 10 boneless wings. And you have to buy a drink first. But hey! Hooters!
- McCormick & Schmick’s. Free lunch or dinner. This one is more upscale than the others. This is probably the most upscale offer on the list. You’re going to have to wear a shirt for this one.
- Sizzler. Vets eat free until 4 pm. Great way to boost the lunch crowd. And what warrior doesn’t appreciate a steak.
- TGIFriday’s. Free lunch on Monday! That’s the 12th! The day after Veterans Day! That means you can take advantage of two lunch offers! Smart move on their part, too!
- Olive Garden. Free entrée.
- Red Robin. Like TGIFriday’s, they are doing their offer on Monday the 12th, not the 11th. They’re also donating $10,000 to the Wounded Warrior Project.
- Outback. Free “bloomin’ onions” and Cokes. I’m including this offer as a highlight because it’s good all week long. Also, they’ve donated some $2 million to Operation Homefront over the years – a great charity that helps veterans in need nationwide.
- Denny’s. Get an early start – free all-you-can-eat pancakes from 6 a.m.
You should bring a military ID or other proof of service. Also, be sure to tip your waitress as if you were paying full price. Don’t be “that guy.”
And bring some family members who aren’t freebies. Like the food? Go there the rest of the year, too! The more successful these events are for restaurants, the more of these offers we’ll see.
Also, keep in mind that some of these restaurants may have independently-owned franchises, which may or may not participate. So you may want to call ahead and confirm.
There are lots more discount offers, including theme parks like Knott’s Berry Farm and Anhauser-Busch theme parks, as well as special offers from regional restaurants at the link.
Happy Veterans Day.
On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, Germany signed an armistice that ended hostilities in World War I. Hostile doesn’t quite cover it; with 20th century technology and 19th century tactics, World War I was one of the most destructive wars in history. The Great War (as it was contemporarily known) included trench warfare, Spanish influenza, and over 37 million casualties.
During the Second Battle of Ypres (Belgium) in 1915, German forces used poison gas for the first time on the Western Front (use of poison gas on the Eastern Front was commonplace). After 17 straight days of fighting, Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, M.D., of the Canadian Expeditionary Forces found himself performing the funeral of a friend and former student, Lieutenant Alex Helmer. Moved beyond speaking, McCrae composed the poem “In Flanders Field” shortly after the service. The reddish Flanders poppy has since become a symbol of remembrance and respect in the former Allied countries, particularly in Great Britain and its now sovereign commonwealth realms.
President Woodrow Wilson declared the first Armistice Day on November 11th, 1919. It later became a formal (legal) federal holiday in 1938. In 1954 Congress changed the name from “Armistice” to “Veterans” Day to honor veterans of all wars, not just World War I.
To all our veterans, a hearty and heartfelt thank you.
In Flanders Field
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders Fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders Fields.
Before he was a talk show host, an actor or a prescription drug plan representative, Montel Williams was a Marine Lieutenant with a degree from the U.S. Naval Academy and an important message to the kids of America: When you have an education, nothing can stand in your way – not even a mountain.
Williams’s life is testament to that message. Born in Baltimore, Maryland, he attended Andover High School in Linthicum, Maryland. He was a good student, athlete and musician, and was elected president of both his junior and senior classes.
After he graduated high school in 1974, Williams enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps. After basic training at Parris Island, SC, he was promoted to platoon guide and sent to the Desert Warfare Training Center at Twenty-nine Palms. His leadership skills caught the attention of superior officers, who recommended him for the Naval Academy Preparatory school at Newport, Rhode Island. He was accepted, completed the one-year course, and went on to be accepted to the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis.
When he arrived at Annapolis, he was honorably discharged from the Marines, and enlisted into the Navy as a midshipman. When he graduated from Annapolis in 1980 with a degree in general engineering and a minor in International Security Affairs, he became the first African American enlisted marine to complete and graduate both the Academy Prep School and Annapolis.
Although he had planned to return to the Marines as an officer after graduating from Annapolis, he and 99 other seniors were given the wrong dose of an immunization. He had a severe reaction to the immunization, was hospitalized for 2 ½ weeks and lost the vision in his left eye. After a partial recovery, he was able to serve as a naval intelligence officer, specializing in languages.
He served as a naval intelligence officer for the next year and a half in Guam, studied Russian at the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, CA, and served for three years aboard submarines. Lieutenant Williams was made supervising cryptologic officer with the Naval Security Fleet Support Division at Ft. Meade, discovered a gift for public speaking, and in 1988 began conducting informal counseling for families of servicemen in his command. He was invited to speak to a group of kids in Kansas City, Mo about leadership and overcoming obstacles. He left the navy with the rank of lieutenant, and received the Navy Achievement Medal, the Meritorious Service Medal and the Navy Commendation Medal and began a three-year career as a motivational speaker. The video clip below is from the beginning of one of his engagements at a prominent college.
As a speaker, Williams traveled the country and reached hundreds of thousands of students, parents, educators and business leaders, inspiring them to work together to help kids reach their highest potential. First order of business to reach your potential: stay in school.
These efforts to reach out to the community with a motivating and inspiring message eventually led to his talk show, the “Montel Williams Show,” which won an Emmy in 1996 and has been on-air for 17 years.
In addition to his success in the Navy, public speaking and television industries, he is a best-selling author. One of his stated beliefs is that “success is determined by what you give back to others,” which may be why he is an active volunteer and philanthropist. In 1999, Montel announced his diagnosis with MS, a potentially debilitating autoimmune disease that affects the brain and spinal cord. To raise both awareness and funds for MS research, he created the Montel Williams MS Foundation. He’s also been the National Spokesperson for the Partnership for Prescription Assistance, a major industry campaign to extend prescription drug help to all Americans, since 2006.
Mr. Williams’ work to motivate people to live to their fullest potential, combined with his willingness to serve, makes him an inspiration and has left an indelible impact on our country. During a time when the economic and social disparities seem to be more and more divisive, he delivers a timeless message about the importance of education, hard work, service and perseverance.
Ready to move mountains? If you’re ready to use your military education benefits, find out how to get started.
Know an inspiring veteran? Tell us about them in the comments.
I first learned about terrorist attacks when I was 15, when five Americans were killed in simultaneous terrorist attacks at the Rome and Vienna airports. President Reagan ordered sanctions and moved military forces into action, and my dad – then a full-time Air National Guardsmember – talked with us kids about what we saw on the television.
Seeing how rattled we were, he talked to us about “situational awareness.” He spoke simply and plainly, letting his love for his country and his kids overshadow any grief or anger he might have felt. There was no need to be afraid, he said, as long as were aware of what was going on around us. He told us that the freedoms we enjoy in America are special, and that there are others who seek to destroy those freedoms. And that if we’re afraid, we’re not really free.
After that, nearly every single time I went anywhere as a teenager, my dad would send me off with a hug, look me in the eyes, and say “situational awareness.” We sometimes laughed about it, but between me and my dad, it became code for “I love you, please be safe.”
A few months later, following Operation El Dorado Canyon in the spring of 1986, I watched when President Reagan went on national television. “When our citizens are abused or attacked anywhere in the world,” he said, “we will respond in self-defense. Today we have done what we had to do. If necessary, we shall do it again.”
Fast forward 26 years, past the Oklahoma City bombing, past the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks, to the evening of September 11, 2001. President George W. Bush delivered an address after spending the day aboard Air Force One: “Terrorist attacks can shake the foundations of our biggest buildings, but they cannot touch the foundation of America. These acts shatter steel, but they cannot dent the steel of American resolve.”
Like many people that day, I called my parents. My foundation had been shaken, and I found myself needing to talk to my loved ones with more urgency than I had felt in a while. I worked very near a state capitol building at the time, and told my dad of my feelings of unease about going to work the next day. He reassured me that I would be alright, and he reminded me of the security and comfort that comes from having a plan and from being aware of what’s going on around me.
Nothing I could ever write today will deliver justice to the fallen, or ease the grief of the widowed, or comfort the child who lost a parent that day. But on this day, the anniversary of a day when our collective awareness of the world changed, I want to try to honor the words that my father spoke, and with them, honor the courage that he and another million-plus veterans have demonstrated with their sacrifices. Today, I am reminded to be aware of the blessing of my freedom and of what tremendous sacrifices have been made to gain it.
Today I want to honor those who died on that horrific day, and those whose hearts were broken. I want to thank those men and women who volunteered to help search for survivors, recover the fallen, and attend to the thousands of injured and suffering. I want to thank those who sacrificed their lives in Operation Enduring Freedom or Operation Iraqi Freedom nearly every day since October of 2001. I will continue to be aware and thankful for my freedom, because so many courageous people have paid dearly for it.