The President’s Veterans initiatives are a BIG deal to people like me. I grew up in a military family during a time when there was virtually no support for those left behind when someone is deployed. My dad was a career Marine. One of his duty stations was Vietnam, where he lived in tents and foxholes for 26 months without a break to come home. Throughout his 30-year career, my father was sent overseas many times, for 13 months each time. During those times, my mother had to fend for herself. That I can remember, no one really thought to care about military families. Those times were excruciating for us children, because they were so very hard for my mom. My mother was a nervous wreck every day, worrying about my father’s safety and doing everything she could to keep our family running. I think she would have benefitted greatly, just knowing that someone cared about her.
My father retired as a Major--after a brilliant military career. He was heavily decorated, including having been awarded two Purple Hearts, and a Silver Star, for saving the lives of about 30 men. After 30 years of service to his country, he worked as a convenience store clerk and then a security guard. He was old and those were the only jobs available to him. Lots of employers didn’t realize the value of the skills my father had acquired over 30 years as a Marine. When my father died, we took him to Arlington to be buried, which was a fitting end to his life of immeasurable dedication.
I want you to know how important all of this is to me and to millions of people like me. I have a real and tender soft spot in my heart for veterans. By his example, my father taught me that there is no greater charge in life than to answer the call in defense of our country. In the next year, I will talk a great deal about the support the President and First Lady's have provided to military families. I hope you will, too.