Those Who Serve !!

Today is Memorial Day and I was fortunate enough to spend it with my parents and my brother’s family. As we all get older, it’s harder and harder to get all of the kids (now young adults) together with everyone.  We were able to grill out, share stories, see how fortunate we are to have such great kids.  I cherish my family and this day, more than most, makes this even more true.

You see, one person wasn’t able to be at our gathering, my biological father.  My dad, John Browne, was a veteran of the US Army.  He served during the Vietnam War and went on four tours during his service.  The Army was really the only choice at the time for my dad.  He was an average high school student and the Army was a way to have a career and develop skills to use later in life.  He entered as a private and rose to the rank of Staff Sergeant.  He ended up being a highly decorated person for his bravery, valor and leadership of his troops during the war.

Dad PicIf you notice, I keep noting these things in the past tense.  My dad passed away in 1968 after losing a battle to Hodgkin’s Disease cancer at the age of 26. It’s amazing to me that he survived the difficulty of battle only to lose to a disease.

I’ve heard that my dad was caring, gregarious and had a deep laugh that came out easily and often.  He was a dedicated friend and loving husband and father.  I was only four years old when dad died.  I have a handful of memories of him, but wish I had more time to have been with him.  From what I’ve been told, he and I are very similar !!  We look the same, have the same voice and I guess I even walk like him.  When I laugh (which is often), my family has said, “That’s just like John.”  I’m sure he loved life and lived it to the fullest !!

One other thing that gives me pride . . .

My dad volunteered to be in the Army.  Just when the draft was going to come into full force and be a dividing factor in our country’s history, my dad chose to serve.  He knew that he could be called to be in harm’s way, and he signed up anyway.

Today, there are thousands of men and women who are just like my dad.  They weren’t drafted into service.  They chose to serve, and they continue to do so in both times and circumstances of war as well as humanitarian efforts around the world.  We are so comfortable in our day-to-day lives that we take for granted these folks who protect our freedom.  That’s a shame and something none of us should take for granted.

Without these thousands of people willing to step in and serve, I wouldn’t be having a picnic with my family this Memorial Day.  So, I wanted to say “Thank You” to all the people of the Armed Services – not just on this day, but every day.  When you see someone in uniform, thank them in person.  They deserve this and so much more !!

I hope you join me in being thankful for those who serve !!

 

Lest We Forget . . .

You may or may not know this, but I am a big geek !!  I always have been, and am quite cool with it.  In school I was in the geeky clubs, the nerdy societies and even had the giant tortoise shell glasses during the 80’s (with the essential feathered hair to compliment the look !!)

Tomorrow, I get to be with my fellow geeks to do something amazing !!  You see, every year I march in the Memorial Day parade in West Chester, Ohio with my Boy Scout Troop.  I am the Scoutmaster of said Troop, and there are very few things in life that I give more credence to than working with the Scouts.  There are tons of scouts who come out for this annual tradition.

We’ll gather tomorrow around 9:00am and march two miles to the local cemetery for a Memorial Day ceremony that always brings me to tears.  To see the people who have served, and continue to serve, our country always humbles me.  In the midst of our gathering, we are surrounded by veterans who have passed dating back to the Revolutionary War.

It’s easy for us to continue with our lives every day and never take note of those who serve for our country.  We’ve been at war for over a decade, and we’re more concerned with who may play in the NBA finals, or who wins Celebrity Apprentice. Don’t get me wrong, I live the same way.  Tomorrow, that cloud lifts and I can take time to be thankful and grateful for those who step in harm’s way for my freedom.

As professionals in HR, we can do our part by getting behind the good work of the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR). We can also use the Veterans Hiring Toolkit from SHRM to help support the America’s Heroes at Work initiative from the DOL.

If those aren’t an option for you as an employer, there is one thing that ALL of us can do.  A dear friend of mine told me that every time she sees someone in fatigues or uniform in public, she goes up to them and says “Thank You for Your Service.”  This simple gesture means that world to people.  Once I heard this from her, I’ve been doing it ever since.

This Memorial Day, step out and be a little geeky.  The men and women of our Armed Services deserve no less.

 

Why it matters . . .

Tomorrow is Memorial Day.  It’s the holiday where we remember those who have fallen while in service for their country in the Armed Services.

Don’t panic – this isn’t a political diatribe or something meant to shake you up.  Just the opposite.  I wanted to let you know why this holiday matters to me.  You see, I’m an Army brat.  I am the first of two sons born to Staff Sergeant John Thomas Browne.  I was born on an Army base in Nuremburg, Germany back when there was an East and West Germany.

My Dad served in the Vietnam War and was unique.  He wasn’t drafted, he chose to enlist.  I can tell you amazing stories about my dad like when he fell off the back of a jeep riding through base and a tank ran over him (literally) and he was barely scratched.  Or, I could tell you about the tours he did in Vietnam fighting on purpose for our country and directing action with other soldiers while only in his early 20’s.  My dad was a devout Detroit Lions fan and I remember curling up with him on the couch to watch the Lions take on the hated Packers.

Sadly, these are only memories.  My dad passed away in 1968 at the age of 26.  I was four years old and my brother was two.  Most of our stories come from pictures and memories from those who knew him.  This week my mom sent me the commendation letter for the Bronze Star that my dad earned for heroic efforts leading his battalion while wounded in the battle of Ia Drang Valley.  He laid in a field which had been sprayed with Agent Orange the day before with an open neck wound for 25 hours, but he led his men with no concern for himself.  It brought me to tears because I have that Bronze Star.

This is a picture of the awards my dad earned that my wife lovingly put together as a Christmas present for me one year.  It is displayed proudly in my house as a reminder of my dad’s service.

Tomorrow I get the privilege of marching in the Memorial Day parade in West Chester, Ohio with Boy Scout Troop 941.  I am humbled to be their Scoutmaster.  We will march for two miles in the hot sun to a cemetery to honor those that have fallen in combat.  The boys in our Troop saw these medals and why Memorial Day matters . . . at least to me.

Tomorrow, don’t just be thankful for a day off or for a great excuse to gather with family and friends.  Be thankful for those that serve in the Armed Forces.  I know I am.