Today is a very special day to me. You see, I have many family members who have served in the military, including aunts, uncles, cousins, my own dad, and both of my grandfathers.  My dad is retired Army who served many years in the Army and the National Guard. He joined the Army when he was living in Taiwan (while his father, my grandpa, was stationed there) at age 19, earned his wings at age 20, and after he graduated flight school, he flew Cobras in the Vietnam War. In fact, one of the missions he flew was Operation Lam Son 719 in which hundreds of helicopters were either shot down, destroyed, or damaged. After Vietnam, he went on to accomplish many great things, including graduating safety school in California and becoming a safety officer, then later becoming a training officer, climbing to a CW5 rank, and being the only person the Army had who was qualified to fly (and maintain) and the particular helicopters he flew, including test models. In fact, his military education is worth hundreds of thousands dollars. When he retired, the Army had to hire three people to replace him. I am immensely proud of my dad. It would be impossible for me to accomplish just half the things he has done with his life.

My dad in 1970, after earning his wings

My dad is the one on the left, asleep on his Cobra while waiting for their next mission

His father, my grandpa, is also retired Army. He started out at the “bottom of the totem pole” as an enlistee, then climbed up the ranks to retire as a Lieutenant Colonel.  He fought in WWII as an infantryman carrying mortars, and he has also accomplished many great things in his lifetime, including publishing a book about his experiences in the war as a mere 18-year-old guy. I’ve read his book, and it was really descriptive and at times, heartbreaking.  In 1945, after the war, Grandpa left the Army but rejoined a couple of years later. He was a Sergeant when he was selected for OCS (Officer Candidate School) and became a 2nd Lieutenant in the late ’40’s, just in time for his deployment to Korea. While he was in Korea, he was responsible for nuclear missiles. You know how in the movies, when a nuclear missile is to be deployed, it takes two officers turning two keys? That’s what my grandpa was responsible for. After Korea, in the early 1950’s, he became a missile instructor. My Grandpa also multilingual. He’s Finnish so he spoke Finnish fluently and in the mid ’50’s, he attended a German language school and was then hand-selected for a special assignment conducting German anti-aircraft artillery school training in Germany. He retired from the Army after over 23 years of amazing service.

From left to right, my uncle M, Grandma, uncle T, Grandpa, and my dad. This was taken before my dad’s two younger sisters were born.

And that’s not all. My dad’s brothers and one of his sisters joined the military. His oldest brother, T, was in the military as well. Sadly, he passed away in the late 1980’s. My dad’s younger brother, M, retired as a Lieutenant Colonel, and was even called back to active duty after his retirement to train Iraqi forces. He is now retired once more. My dad’s younger sister, D, joined the Air Force for a while.

On my mom’s side, my grandfather, known as Papa, was a Marine from 1940 until 1947. He was stationed at Pearl Harbor when the attack began. He was doing guard duty at the Navy Yard where the battleships were tied when out of nowhere, planes started shooting at him from overhead. Taking cover behind a tree, he slapped a round into his rifle and began shooting back. His commander, unaware that they were being attacked, threatened to put him on report. Papa, of course, lived through the attack but never spoke much about what happened. Remember when the movie Pearl Harbor came out? Well, the most Papa ever really described about his experience in Pearl Harbor was to say that the movie acurately depicted the horrors that they all endured. After he left he Marines in 1947, he became a CPA and later started his own accounting business, making a huge name for himself. Sadly, he passed away not too long ago.

Papa in 1941

So you see, Veteran’s Day has very special meaning to me, and I just want to thank everyone out there who has served or is currently serving in the military. You have written a check, payable to the United States of America, for an amount up to (and all too often including) your life. And for that, I will forever be thankful.

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