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Sunday, May 01, 2005

My Father's America

I am an American, fighting in the forces that guard my country and our way of life. I am prepared to give my life in their defense. -- US Military Code of Conduct, Article I

Give me, kind Heaven, a private station, A mind serene for contemplation: Title and profit I resign; The post of honor shall be mine. -- John Gay

These were honoured in their generations, and were the glory of the times.  -- Ecclesiasticus 44:7

It wasn't the reward that mattered or the recognition you might harvest. It was your depth of commitment, your quality of service, the product of your devotion -- these were the things that counted in a life. When you gave purely, the honor came in the giving, and that was honor enough. --Scott O'Grady, USAF

I think the purpose of life is to be useful, to be responsible, to be honorable, to be compassionate. It is, after all, to matter: to count, to stand for something, to have made some difference that you lived at all. --Leo C. Rosten

"Never give in! Never give in! Never, never, never. Never -- in anything great or small, large or petty -- never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense." --  Sir Winston Churchill

"Our own heart, and not other men's opinion, form our true honor." -- Samuel Taylor Coleridge

"Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination are omnipotent. The slogan press on has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race. No person was ever honored for what he received. Honor has been the reward for what he gave." --  John Calvin Coolidge

"If you must choose between two paths, either of which will bring death and defeat, then choose the path wherein you die fighting for honor and justice." --  Pan Ku

"At the close of life the question will be not how much have you got, but how much have you given; nor how much have you won, but how much have you done; not how much have you saved, but how much have you sacrificed; how much have you loved and served, not how much were you honored." -- Nathan C. Schaeffer

I miss my Dad this time of year. Not because he was killed in action, but because throughout a life punctuated by achievement, trials, and personal demons, he felt his service in the USAF was where he found his best self. The clarity of ethical conduct appealed to his sense of how people need to be to and with one another. I think if he had been alive to witness this last presidential election his reaction would have been one of shame. Shame that there is no honor that cannot be shoved aside in the cause of winning. Shame that the debate of ideas is a distant second to the besmichment of character. This is not to say my Dad wasn't politically savvy, I grew up outside of Chicago, after all, but he did expect the people who earned his vote to "have some stones" when it came to making tough choices. Phrases like "civil servant" and "civic virtues" weren't lip service, they were core attitudes, as much a part of him as his size 12 1/2 feet.

During his lifetime he did not miss a single opportunity to vote. Not one. Voting, he explained, was a civilian's duty towards democracy. Not voting, in my house, was akin to capital crime. He and my Mother, both whip smart and good debaters, turned election time around our house into an unending series of congealing suppers on dinner-plates, chilling to the tune of political discourse. I can remember seeing my brother face down, asleep at the table while the pro's and con's raged, oblivious.

My Dad had very set ideas about behavior. There was no lying, no dissembling the truth when faced with the dark brown-eyed stare down. Honor was a mindset; trust earnest by conduct. These are all military ideals, I realize now. As a child, they were just the law. Deviations were disciplined. Conduct should never be compromised.

When I read about things like Abu Ghraib, I think about my Dad. I know what he would have thought was honorable in that situation. I know where he would have considered the line to be. Honor's qualities preclude avoidance of responsibility. My Dad, as an officer, would not have looked upon trials of service men and women favorably. The chain of command is absolute. You are responsible for your people. They don't piss without you knowing about it. Honor requires ethics, courage and responsibility. Honor earned is your strongest shield, but it is a transparent one.

My Dad was not a perfect father, but to me he embodied America. He always tried. He embraced duty, country and family with passion and commitment. You knew where you stood with my Dad. You knew where you stood with his America.

This weekend we look at ours. This is the great, untrumpeted gift of the Memorial Day holiday to our nation. It gives us an opportunity to see honor as it should be seen: quietly, in individual gratitude for the sacrifice, and with personal introspection for the enormity of that gift. As you look upon the faces of the dead, see them, but be also humble, as is befitting honor.

(The banner you see above came into being thanks to the efforts of Patcam2005 of DO NOT READ ANY OF THIS and me, and it represents only a portion of the service personnel killed in Afghanistan and Iraq so far this year. Peace be with them.)

Posted by Jet N. at 12:01 AM in Military | Permalink


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Excellent post, Jet. I can't think of anything to add to it.

I have a Memorial Day post coming up on Monday, but you and TB are gonna be tough acts to follow.

Posted by: Tom Harper | May 27, 2005 5:29:55 AM

Thank you for this post, Jet. As I sit here in my BDU's, readying myself for another 12 hr. day on the flightline, I found your post refreshing and honorable. You have yourself a WONDERFUL holiday weekend, my friend, and God Bless you and yours :-)

Posted by: Gun-Toting Liberal | May 27, 2005 6:16:31 AM

Be safe Gun-Toting! Jet, beutiful, just beutiful!

Posted by: The Bastard | May 27, 2005 7:04:49 AM

Really beautiful, Jet, your dad sounds wonderful.

Savor those dinner talk memories

Posted by: pia | May 27, 2005 8:49:05 AM

Jet, that brought a tear to my eye...beautiful!

Posted by: sally | May 27, 2005 5:14:42 PM

Thank you everyone. I'm glad to share Dad's spirit with you. I miss him very much.

Posted by: Jet | May 27, 2005 5:58:38 PM

Excellent Job! Your vision came to life....

Posted by: PATCAM | May 28, 2005 11:06:24 PM

Great job Jet! I don't think anyone else could have said it better...

Posted by: Chris | May 29, 2005 10:35:03 PM

I'm glad this struck a chord with y'all. GTL, you be safe, and thanks for having my back earlier.

Posted by: Jet | May 30, 2005 7:12:41 PM

God bless you all! Message for the bastard and Jet! I've got a non-partisan, respectful post up! Thank you to all who served, and respect our military!

Posted by: Jay | May 30, 2005 8:08:02 PM

As much as you guys admonish me when you disagree, a nice comment from you when I set aside politics would be awesome!....Bastard.

Posted by: Jay | May 30, 2005 9:27:08 PM

Hey Jay, I went to your site but didn't see anywhere to comment on your nice post for Memorial Day. But it does make you wonder when you have to come back and "look" for nice comments.

If you feel in your heart you posted something for them and it brings you to the point of tears thinking about it then you did a good post and it really shouldn't matter what other people think. Now go play in the backyard dinner will be ready soon.

Posted by: The Bastard | May 31, 2005 11:16:32 AM

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