I was born on Flag Day, raised with the Pledge of Allegiance and listened with pride to the stories of family members that served in World War II and Vietnam. I grew up in the 70's and 80's during the Cold War, a time when schools had routine drills for nuclear war, and I watched in relief as the Iranian Hostages were freed, looked on in horror when 220 US Marines lost their lives in Beirut, cheered when "The Wall" came tumbling down and was shocked during the Tiananmen Square Massacre. Looking back now it is easy to understand my unwavering loyalty to the Stars and Stripes.
Superman has always been, by far, my favorite Superhero. Not because he can fly or has x-ray vision. No, that stuff is really cool and I have tried to both fly and see through.... uhhhh.... stuff but for me it was the whole, "Truth, Justice and the American Way" thing. From the earliest age I loved that he would save the world but always remained loyal to the good old USA. Crazy, I know but that was always what I loved most about the Man of Steel. Of course, I wanted to be Rambo and Maj. McCoy at different times too. As a child back in "the day" there was no shortage of war hero movies and all of this cemented the notion in my young brain that it was not only a great honor but a responsibility to serve.
Coming out of high school, I had no idea that I would join the USMC. In fact, it was a fluke that I even enlisted. The first Persian Gulf war was all over TV and coming to an end when I made the move. I remember driving home from my part-time-turned-full-time job and without much thought found myself pulling into the parking lot of the Armed Forces Recruiting Building. As I walked in, I recalled the stories of a few of my Dad's friends who were former Marines. Without hesitation I walked in and told the Recruiting Sergeant that I was ready to enlist. I'm sure this was the easiest "sell" he had ever had. I left with an appointment for a physical and ready for the swearing in ceremony.
My time in the Marines was nothing special as I was never in a combat zone, dodged bullets or had the overwhelming fear that I might, at any time, die. I remember volunteering for deployment to Somalia and Bosnia on more than one occasion. One time in particular stands out. I was, once again, asking to be deployed when a Corporal, who was only a year or two older than I was and just returning from his 3rd trip to Somalia came in. With a hardened and haunted look he told me plainly enough that I shouldn't ask to go if I wasn't ready to give it all. He had a chest full of medals, one of which was the Purple Heart, and the no-nonsense tone of a person that revealed he was the "real deal" and not a character in a Hollywood movie. As I look back, now 20 years later, I am thankful that my journey didn't take me to these places even though I thought that's what I needed to do at the time.
That Corporal, among many other grizzled and very honorable combat veterans remain constant and steady VOICES as I go through life. When I began running back in 2006, there was never a thought that I would run 26.2, 50 or even 100 miles one day. But there was the knowledge that I could if I so desired. There would be nobody to stop me but myself. Nothing in my way. No governmental intrusion or law preventing me from fulfilling my dreams. The VOICES of those that have served and sacrificed their lives to ensure that our freedom is secure fill my head on daily basis in everything I do. They are the reason that I teach my children to stand up when the National Anthem is playing, to respect our flag and say the Pledge of Allegiance without fear or shame. I fly the flag, have a picture of the Marines at Mt. Suribachi on my wall, support our troops regardless of politics and thank a veteran when I meet them. I am proud to live in the shadow they cast.
Today is Veterans Day. The day we celebrate and honor the GREAT men and women that have served in an effort to keep this country the Home of the Free and the Land of the Brave. I am extremely honored and humbled that they are willing to risk their lives so the rest of us don't have to. From the Battles of Lexington and Concord to the Mountains of Afghanistan they have served and died for our nation. I am eternally grateful and hopeful that I can live my life in way that honors the gift they have left behind.
This is how it works-
I love to run but there are times when I would rather not. This is when the voices start. Chants, name calling, guilt and reverse psychology is how they get me up and out the door. I don't really mind the voices and have actually started looking forward to their daily calls. Together we have formed a running club that supports, encourages and competes with each other. I love these peeps. They are much more experienced, talented and tougher than I am. Pushing me out the door, through the hard miles and up the monster hills when I am feeling lazy or want to give up. Some people have "real" training partners, coaches and support crews. My team is ALWAYS with me and helps me to keep my eye on the prize and not veer off the track. Sounds crazy- Yeah, probably is.........