Veterans Day: A Family Legacy

Tomorrow is Veterans Day, and like most of my classmates, I’m looking forward to having a day off of classes. I’ve always felt a bit guilty about having Veterans Day off; after all I didn’t do anything to deserve it. When I was an undergraduate I remember my dad saying: I’m a veteran and I don’t even get the day off. Let’s face it, most people employed outside of banking, government, and education won’t have a day to enjoy the freedoms that our veterans help secure. I don’t have the power to persuade companies to give working veterans and active duty service personnel the day off work, but I can do my part to honor those who have served. To that end, I’d like to dedicate this blog to the men in my family who have served.

In a class presentation last night, we learned that half of the men of the Greatest Generation served in the military. My grandfathers were among them: my grandpa Jake Stebelton served in the Navy and my grandpa Cyril Stickel served in the Army. My grandpa Jake passed away more than 20 years ago and I do not know much about his service. My grandpa Cy is 85, active, and opens up more and more about his time in the European Theater during WWII. During that time he served as a paramedic assistant with the Black Panthers and helped liberate France. He once missed his convoy when he stopped for a restroom break, and spent a few nights of liberation in Paris, before rejoining his unit a few days later. Reading between the lines, I think that accidental leave was one of the best times of his life.

Unlike a lot of my classmates, my parents did not attend college. Basic training in South Carolina 1968 was my father’s undergraduate education and Vietnam was his graduate school. As a rural kid who had never been in a taxi, never been on an airplane, and never left Ohio, the Army’s 82nd Airborne was surely a culture shock. He doesn’t talk much about Vietnam; I can only imagine why. Most of his time was spent in the trenches, fighting jungle rot, insects the size of helicopters, and an unrelenting opponent. On one of his first outings, the man in front of him and the man behind him were both shot. He survived. For good or for bad, my dad had a major seizure while on duty. At first they thought he was trying to fake his way out of duty. He was sent to a hospital in Japan to recover, and then sent home to finish out his service at Ft. Carson in Colorado Springs. My brother was born in the Army hospital there, and my mom had to dutifully make her own bed after labor, as if she were enlisted too! My father still takes Dilantin to prevent seizures (and he hasn’t had another one since I was a child)…a little lasting legacy from the Army. Within the last few years the government has recognized that epilepsy may be linked to conditions and materials from service.

My husband’s father, Jack Stephens, is also a veteran. He served on the Kir Sarge in the Korean War. The swallow he had tattooed on his arm, a rite of passage for many Navy men, has faded. But he too also has a lasting legacy from those days: cataplexy. Unlike my father’s grand mal seizures, my father in law’s seizures simply look like someone collapsing. This happens when he gets too excited: perhaps someone has said a funny joke or said something upsetting. We don’t know that our fathers have epilepsy because of their time in the service, but, for them both, it’s when it all began and it has never gone away. Surely these men both deserved a day off on Veterans Day.

Currently my brother-in-law Bob serves in the Ohio Air National Guard as an aircraft mechanic for the refueling wing. As a member of the Air Force and ANG he has been around the world to Japan, Turkey, Germany, Guam and southwest Asia. His son, Bobby, is also in the ANG, and two other nephews serve in the Army and the Navy.

From both sides of the family, we are proud of our military heritage and those who have served and those who still do serve. We’ve been blessed not to have a fallen soldier, but Veterans Day is also for remembering the heroes who never made it home alive.

My brother in law had the honor of escorting some of our fallen patriots home this summer. In his own words:

This year, on the return trip from Southwest Asia, I had the honor to escort the remains of two soldiers that gave the ultimate sacrifice for this country to Dover, Delaware. They were put on my aircraft in Southwest Asia, then flew with us to England, then to Dover, Delaware, where they were taken off the aircraft with a ceremony that I will never forget. It was a solemn flight where usually the flight home is upbeat and cheerful, this one was one of respect and honor. I was proud to have been on that flight and would do it again.

Veterans Day, Vacation Day?

For the past few weeks, I have been really looking forward to November 11th – the day I have no classes and no intentions of stepping foot on campus.  All that I, and most of my classmates, really want to do is catch my breath and get prepared for the last four CRAZY weeks of my first quarter at Fisher (during which we will have 4 Accounting Cases, 3 final papers, 3 final presentations, 4 daily assignments and 3 final exams – not to mention all of the reading that goes with those assignments…).  But, November 11th is more than just a vacation day, it’s Veterans Day.

Buckeye Battalion preparing to raise the Flag at an OSU home football game. My daughter loves the fact that the Flag "has legs" - two Buckeye Battalion members crouch under the Flag to keep it from touching the ground.

My father (Air Force), step-father-in-law (Marine Corp), brother-in-law (Army Reserves) and one of my cohort team mates (Army) are all Veterans.  I am immensely proud of each of them and would like to use this blog to honor them and all Veterans by taking us all back to the real meaning of Veterans Day.  Veterans Day began in 1918 as Armistice Day – a way to honor those who fought in World War I.  In 1954, Armistice Day was changed to Veterans Day in order to honor veterans of ALL wars.  Today, Veterans Day is designed to honor and thank living veterans who served in the military during times of peace and of war.

So, as you relax (or study) on this Veterans Day or hit the malls for some great sales, please be sure to stop for a moment to remember what this day truly means.  In fact, why not take that moment right now and watch this clip of the OSU ROTC Buckeye Battalion raising the Flag as the Ohio State Marching Band plays the U.S. National Anthem:

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HUG a Veteran on Veteran’s Day, Novemer 11, 2010

It’s been over seven years since I’ve returned home from my tour of duty in Iraq.  I will definitely tell you, it was a long 18-month stint in Iraq and I came away from that experience with a lot of positive memories.

Over the years, I have had time to reflect on my military service.  I am extremely grateful that I commited to serving my country for eight years of life.  I am not going to say it was ‘easy’ all of the time, that I enjoyed every every minute of it or even, at times, questioned my reasoning for doing it.  I have come to realize that the military is not for everyone just as everyone is not cut out for the military.  All in all, I am glad to have fought for our freedom in the capacity that I did.  Every day I am thankful that I live in a free country.  I do believe there is a price tag to enjoy the freedoms that we do in the United States and I am glad that I was a part of paying that price for all of us to enjoy.

Now, Thursday, November 11, 2010, is Veteran’s Day.

I know that throughout The Ohio State University, Fisher College of Business, there are numerous veterans that span through all the programs offered (i.e. FT MBA, MLHR, MBLE, MACC, Working Profesional MBA).

I offer the following challenge:  if you know someone who is currently serving, has served or has been out of the military for a LONG time, let them know how much you appreciate them and the sacrifices and service they have given to this great nation we call America.

Some of my personal favorite ‘thank you’s’ are:  “High-Five” a Veteran…or… “Hug” A Veteran.  Whatever you do to show you care and appreciate them and their service, do it.  I feel it is our patriotic duty to reach out and honor those who served in any of our armed forces branches.

What I have taken away from my whole miliary experience is this:  Its not about equal giving, its about equal sacrifice.

Below I have included some pictures from Iraq!  ENJOY!

Happy Veteran’s Day!