I was recently the guest speaker at the commissioning ceremony for my great nephew as a Second Lieutenant in the United States Air Force. The ceremony was a proud moment for our family. As I prepared for the event, I did a little research and found a surprising fact about my family's military service. It starts with my Father who served 3 years in the United States Army during World War 2 and saw action in the Pacific theater (he rarely spoke of his service but after he died, he was buried with full military honors). While all of my siblings did not serve, four of the six of us did. One of my older brothers served in the United States Marine Corp for over 20 years and retired as a Gunny Sergeant. One of my sisters served a 4-year tour in the United States Army. My Wife and I both served in the United States Air Force and retired as Lieutenant Colonels after 20 years of service. My younger brother served in the United States Army for over 20 years and retired as a Lieutenant Colonel. Another nephew served over 25 years in the United States Army and did two tours of duty in Iraq before he retired as a Sergeant First Class. Another nephew served a 4-year tour in the United States Air Force. I also had two Uncles who served over 20 years each in the United States Army. They both served tours of duty in Korea and Vietnam.
My research revealed that my family has over 150 years of active military service. This was a surprising revelation because I had never thought of my family as a military family. And it's strange that this is something we never really talk about at family events. But as I reflect, I think we saw the military as a place where the playing field was level and we could compete fairly. While not without problems, we saw the military as an institution where we could not only better our lot in life but also give something back. We saw the military as the place where we could earn promotion based purely on our performance and merits. But I think most of all, we saw the military as the institution that shared the core values that our parents instilled in us. Service before self, integrity first, always do your best, treat people the way they should be treated (respect), be loyal, take pride in what you do, and always be faithful (Semper Fi)
In my speech, I shared all of this with my great nephew but made sure he knew this was not about the past, but about the future; his future! He has willingly accepted the challenge to serve and must be prepared to take his place as not only a positive contributor but a true leader in society. He must be well grounded physically, mentally, and spiritually and be ready to step up and meet the challenges of the unknown. He must be prepared to represent our country in peaceful and hostile environments. He is expected to rise above any situation and solve every problem he faces. He will meet people he thinks he has little to nothing in common but will be expected to find the common ground to forge mutual understanding. He must embody the core values of the military and be ready to serve with honor, dignity and pride!
My great nephew continues a tradition of service for our family and I know he is prepared and ready to serve! He and young people like him give me hope and confidence that the future is in good hands.
BTW -- The photo is of Mt Suribachi on the island of Iwo Jima, the site of one of the deadliest battles in the Pacific during WW2. It was taken by a cousin who is a Marine currently serving in Japan