I spent my formative years as an Army Brat, so it’s no surprise that most of my favorite childhood memories took place on Post. Going to work with my dad; he’d always stop at this little, old Shopette and grab us a Nutter Butter bar to share with a “don’t tell your mom,” smile. He’d been a Staff Sergeant by then, and his ‘office’ was filled with all kinds of treats. Like those handheld label-makers, and microfiche readers with their endless film slides to choose from. It always smelled like fresh paint, buffing wax and a hint of the black polish my dad would work into his combat boots every night before bed. The old black and silver ball-point pens that click, click, click. The metallic-scented ink still takes me back.
That all ended when I was nearly ten. My dad had given nearly 21 years to the military and we soon found ourselves adjusting to the civilian life. There were always military families along the way, though. Even to this day, I have family and friends who are both retired and active duty.
About four years ago, I was given the honorary title of Family Genealogist, passed to me by my dad – along with the five tons of documents he’d managed to collect during his reign. (FYI honorary is another way of saying that you don’t get paid.) I was thrilled, though. I knew how to research and thoroughly enjoyed it. I wanted to find the names, couldn’t wait to meet the people. What I found was generations of soldiers going all of the way back to the Revolutionary War. One ancestor’s file has already been verified and approved by a member of DAR – who also happens to be my second cousin, and along with her husband and their eldest daughter, a Veteran, herself. It turned out that I had more military ancestors than civilian, from both my mother and father’s side of the family.
Now, we come around to another Veteran’s Day and if I don’t get this posted soon, I’ll have missed the holiday deadline, but it wouldn’t matter. The truth is that after spending so many years diving into the lives of my ancestors, I’ve stopped reserving a single day out of the year to think about them and what they survived in order to pave the way for this legacy that’s become our family. I don’t really care if you’re 100% against the military, or 100% for it. I don’t need to know if you support our troops, even though you despise the institution, if you’re covered in yellow ribbons or refuse to buy one – all I know is this:
In 1778 one of my ancestor’s fought under the command of General George Washington. My ancestors fought on BOTH sides of the Civil War and some of their descendants fought in WWI. My grandfathers, great uncles and cousins fought in WWII. My father and his brothers fought in Vietnam. Without any of them, I would NOT be sitting here with the freedom to decide if I support the military or not. Without their choices, their sacrifices and their roles in the history of this country’s military forces, I would not be sucking air into my lungs right now. So thank you, with all of my heart, for your Soldier DNA. Thank you, with the utmost gratitude, for the fact that my veins, and those of the people I love, are filled with Veteran Blood.