Minnesota Born: Honoring My Veteran, My Brother
Sometimes it feels like Veterans Day is one of those, what I call, half-holidays.
It's not celebrated like, say, Christmas. It's not celebrated like the 4th Of July or Thanksgiving. And that's too bad. It should be. Honoring our veterans should be at the top of the holiday list.
And so, on this Veterans Day, I'd like to introduce and honor my personal veteran. My brother.
It's 1968, ancient history for many, and yet for us folks of a certain age, not all that long ago. 1968 was interesting for a whole lot of reasons (Google 1968 and you'll see why) and it was the year my older and only brother Larry enlisted in the United States Air Force. He had graduated from Edgerton, Minnesota High School earlier that year and I was the annoying younger brother, just 13 years of age that fall.
My dad. mom and I went to Sioux Falls with him and I watched him board a plane headed for a faraway place called the Lackland Air Force Base near San Antonio, Texas. At the time, in my 13-year-old mind, I was sure he was unique in doing that, climbing into that big silver bird and heading for the Lone Star state. Of course, he was actually joining thousands of others heading off to a base, maybe there, maybe somewhere else.
But it didn't matter. This was my brother, my serviceman.
It was some weeks later he came back, on leave. My dad, my mom, and I waited at the Sioux Falls Airport for the plane. And I can still see him step off that plane and it was confirmed. He was wearing a uniform that told the world (and me particularly) that my brother was in the United States Air Force. To put it plainly, I was so proud my buttons could have popped off!
I never told him that, of course. I pretended to be casual, pretended it was no big deal. But inside, it was a big, big deal.
Looking back, I'm pretty sure my dad had some mist in his eyes at that airport on that day. Dad was 48 years old in that year of 1968, a World War II veteran, a man who had served in the European Theater of that war, in France, Belgium, the Battle of The Bulge, Germany. He was your stereotypical 'tough' guy emotion-wise. But he was proud. And so was I.
My brother was just 18 years old at the time, a farm kid like me. I don't know if his four years in the United States Air Force changed him. I assume in some ways it did. We didn't talk about it much through the years. I never told him out loud that I was proud of him. I'm not sure my dad did, either. Back in those 'old days' men didn't do that.
But all these decades later I can still see him coming out of that plane...it's one of the warmest memories I have. Our dad and mom are gone now for several years and he's going to be 73 years old before too long. He has kids of his own now, and grandkids of his own as well. He's battled through some major health issues in recent years, tough stuff. In a real sense, the years, our age, and perhaps his and our challenges have brought us closer together. In fact, close enough now that I can say...
...I love you, Larry. I'm proud of you for a whole lot of reasons, but especially this Veterans Day, I'm proud of you for your service to our country.
And I thank you, brother.