My father was a career Army officer in a time when that came to be a very unpopular thing. I had a marvelous childhood with tours in the Canal Zone and Holland. He had a fairly good time of it, aside from his tour in Vietnam. I’ve grown up with men and women who served this country (and it can be argued who served the world) in World War II, the Korean Conflict, Vietnam, the action in Panema, in the drug wars and in both Gulf Wars. They are incredible people who are asked to do things that the rest of us cannot fathom. And they do them on a daily basis and with little regard for personal safety and less complaint.
Today, they volunteer to serve. And because they do, I am not required to serve in my Country’s armed services.
Why do our volunteer forces join up? What makes them the men and women they are? Whatever your politics, please understand that our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines do what they do because they feel it is both necessary and honorable. Beyond that, there is a pride in serving in uniform. Serving with one’s comrades-in-arms. And in America, serving the vision that is this Country’s legacy. It is a service and sacrifce that I will never know. Here is my brother-in-law’s ode to his service Dress Blues on the day of retirement from The United States Marine Corps. I wish you could have heard him. I think it speaks volumes.
Fred Woodaman’s Farewell to his Marine Corps Dress Blues
Twenty years have gone by since I first put you on,
As Semper Fi President you were the prize I had won.
‘Twere no medals nor ribbons to grace you then.
I was bursting with pride and joy on that lovely day,
Just a year or so removed from my first foreign fray.
A new butter bar striding into his first Ball.
Beheld did I…
Your bright buttons shining bold on coat of dark blue,
And glaring from high collar, bidding the ordinary adieu
Silver eagles on golden globes and anchors.
Fulfilled – that night those four years by the Severn,
Forged – my conviction to service both happy and stern.
Found – my calling as soldier of the sea.
And so did I…
Many more times find myself cloaked in your honor,
Radiant and bright was I in this wondrous blue armor.
Striving always to be worthy to put you on.
Many years of service and toil we both now start to show,
No more barren chest but nigh dozen medals glitter in two row.
To join buttons and EGAs that still shine bright.
But still why I…
Why should feel the loss of you as something so monumental?
Are you not, my Blues, just some cloth and bits of shiny metal?
No. No mere garment or vain symbol are you.
Proud, proud, triply proud am I to have donned you,
Blest, blest, thrice blest to number among those chosen few.
‘Tis a joy and legacy I’ll cherish all my days.
And so must I..
Say goodbye my dress Blues, ’tis the time for us to part
I feel joy for my new future but your loss to me’s a dart.
This great chapter in my life’s come to a close.
I must zip you in some bag and put you in storage,
Never to come out lest perhaps to show you in my dotage,
Causing some grandchild perhaps to wonder and dream.
But beneath civilian’s garb,
The clothes of day to day ,
Yes, beneath civilian garb
You will still hold sway.
I will wear you still
Your dark blue and gold
My heart still will thrill
My spirit you’ll embold.
You will never let me forget
Though you rest in a closet
That I was once one of the best
A high step above the rest
A proud member of the team
A United States Marine.