In Honoring our Veterans. Please Remember the thousands who served and fought for our Country only to be disposed of when they came home. Look at the statistics for Veterans living on the streets and incarcerated in prisons. When are we going to start really Supporting our Veterans?
Now my friends, I am opposed to the system of society in which we live today, not because I lack the natural equipment to do for myself but because I am not satisfied to make myself comfortable knowing that there are thousands of my fellow men who suffer for the barest necessities of life. We were taught under the old ethic that man’s business on this earth was to look out for himself. That was the ethic of the jungle; the ethic of the wild beast. Take care of yourself, no matter what may become of your fellow man. Thousands of years ago the question was asked; ”Am I my brother’s keeper?” That question has never yet been answered in a way that is satisfactory to civilized society.
Yes, I am my brother’s keeper. I am under a moral obligation to him that is inspired, not by any maudlin sentimentality but by the higher duty I owe myself. What would you think me if I were capable of seating myself at a table and gorging myself with food and saw about me the children of my fellow beings starving to death.
1908 speech Eugene V. Debs
This is a special week for me for two reasons; my Daddy’s birthday and Veteran’s day. I celebrate because Daddy was a proud Veteran of World War II. In his heart, he knew why he enlisted to travel to Europe and the meaning of the freedom he fought for.
Daddy spent his entire working career in civil service to the government in the space program because this was his passion. Daddy was a Civil Servant. During his forty years of service, he kept scrape-books of pictures of the creation of NASA and the technology that we now take for granted. After he lost his eyesight to macular degeneration, he would still climb to the attic to get his books to share with me when I occasionally went “home” for a visit.
Another of Daddy’s passions was traveling. Each summer we would pack up the station wagon for our “vacation” which usually included a visit to Tacoma Washington for Daddy to show us where he was in the CC Camp as a teen-ager. We always took a different route from Alabama to Washington and stopped to see all the land-sites…Grand Canyon, Yosemite, Yellowstone, Black Hills, Everglades, Atlantic Ocean, Pacific Ocean, Gulf of Mexico. We didn’t visit people, we saw nature and history camping-out.
Daddy who had traveled to Europe during the war did not only give me this country, he gave me the world. In the early 1950’s Daddy bought a set of World Book Encyclopedia and told me to read them. I really don’t remember when we got our first television because I was always “somewhere else” in my mind and dreams. While other kids were playing I was reading about different ways of life in far-away places and planning my escape from the top of the mountain in Alabama.
I had the freedom to be a dreamer because Daddy was in the service of providing the “American Dream” for his family. Unfortunately, I did not know or appreciate Daddy while I was growing up. He was a quiet simple man and we were not able to communicate or connect on a personal level.
Along came Viet Nam, Civil Rights, divorce and so many other issues that seemed to further separate me from, not only Daddy, but the culture into which I was born. Rather than discuss these issues with Daddy, I chose to leave my tribe and go in search of life in a better world. Perhaps, I used those differences in belief as an excuse to follow my wanderlust for adventure and to experience different cultures.
My life out in the world is best described in a book, “Oh! The Places You’ll Go” by Dr. Seuss. This book was not written for children as Life in the World is not for children. With all the drama, chaos, disgrace and success I found in the world, there was always a true Veteran at home loving me…My Daddy.
The other “kids” in the family had a completely different relationship with Daddy and I was jealous. My only sister grew up following Daddy, whistling and asking him questions. When she was about four she explained to my mother how to tell a boy puppy from a girl puppy. Mother was horrified and when asked how she got this information, my sister said, “Daddy told me” when confronted Daddy replied simply, “She asked.”
My son who was named after Daddy enlisted in the military to go to Europe and jump out of airplanes because his Grand-Dad told him that was what he always wanted to do. To all the Grandkids and Great Grandkids he was simply the most wonderful playmate in their world…Grand-Dad. To my daughters he was the one who traveled across the country several times a year to see them. To the Great Grandkids, he was the one who lived in the country with a pond and sheep. They all knew and had a different view of the man called Debs.
When Daddy’s name was formally written, Debs was listed as his middle name and his first name was Eugene. I first came across Eugene V. Debs in history books but really paid little attention, except to acknowledge where Daddy got his name. For a man, small in physical stature, Daddy carried a name equal to his character in true integrity and love.
Daddy never talked to me about his childhood or his Mother who gave him the name Eugene Debs. For whatever reasons, I had very little contact with my Grandmother or any of the family on my Daddy’s side as a child or growing up. All I really knew was that my Grandmother traveled…on a bus…on a train and we occasionally received pictures of her taken in different locations.
Now when I read the quote written by Eugene Debs in 1908 and think about my Grandmother who obviously admired him enough to honor her son with the name Eugene Debs, I wish I had taken the opportunity to know Daddy and ask the questions that will always go unanswered.
During his life, Daddy did not talk about or give his personal views on such things as war, religion, politics or social justice. In my early childhood, he and his friends often went hunting and he raised beagles for rabbit hunting. As the years went by he stopped shooting but continued to have animals. He loved babies…puppies…lambs…stray cats. He spent most of his later years outside working in the yard…raking, mowing, walking around the pond and praying.
Daddy would have been 86 years old on November 9 and the writings and beliefs of the man for whom my Grandmother named him are as apt today as when they were spoken in 1908. This is the heritage that I carry on even though it was never expressed or communicated to me in words.
In honoring this heritage, I acknowledge my “traveling Grandmother” from whom I must have inherited the itchy feet and my “Veteran Daddy” who gave me the world as my home. When I think about all the questions that I will never be able to ask Daddy, I know in my heart I got the only answer that I ever really wanted during Daddy’s final day on Earth when he smiled and said, “Jo, I love you.”
At the foot of Daddy’s grave, there is a stone from the military acknowledging his service as a Veteran and I know the pride he had in that service. Peace, nature and social justice were not the things Daddy talked about, they were the way he lived. It is my privilege to be his daughter and carry on this heritage.
Again I ask you…In Honoring our Veterans. Please Remember the thousands who served and fought for our Country only to be disposed of when they came home. Look at the statistics for Veterans living on the streets and incarcerated in prisons. When are we going to start supporting our really Supporting our Veterans?
Love, Light & Lots of Laughter…Joa