Some of us are old enough to remember when our parents referred to Veterans Day as Armistice Day. November 11, 1918 was the day World War I was officially ended. This memorial is observed in Great Britain and Canada as well. It’s part of our shared heritage.
My mother’s uncle, an immigrant from Greece, fought in the Great War. He had been in this country less than 10 years when he volunteered. He never spoke about his war experiences, instead devoting his life to his family and the dry cleaning business he shared with his brother.
On my father’s side, military service didn’t start until after December 7, 1941. The day Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. A month after President Franklin Roosevelt, with the Congress of the United States, declared war on Japan, my dad was enlisted in the U.S. Navy. He spent part of his Navy “career” aboard the battleship U.S.S. Texas, in the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea. He came down with a malaria-like disease and went to Philadelphia to recuperate.
From there he went to San Francisco where he was assigned to the destroyer escort, U.S.S. Wyman, which he joined in Pearl Harbor. He and his shipmates saw action from the Marshall Islands to Okinawa, sinking two Japanese submarines in that time. One of their motor whaler boats was strafed by friend forces after the first submarine kill.
Several of my uncles followed my dad into the service, primarily the Navy and Army. They didn’t wait to get drafted, they just enlisted.
In 1963 my oldest brother enlisted in the Navy and made several trips to Vietnam ferrying Marines to war, primarily on the U.S.S. Pickaway, APA-222. Eleven year later I enlisted in the Marine Corps, the last of the Vietnam Era veterans.
My brother-in-law was a Navy SeaBee and his daughter, my niece, was a Navy corpsman, serving with the Marines at the start of the Iraq War. After that she spent the majority of her Navy career on shoreside duty, with one tour on an aircraft carrier.
Military service is a family affair. Serving our nation isn’t required, but it is respected. We have a special place in our hearts for all those in the family that have served, from WWI to the present.
Our family isn’t unique in this regard. There are millions of families in this nation who have a long military history. Moms and dads did it, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, brothers and sister; it’s just something the family does. Usually not everyone. not every child for instance, but every generation is represented in service.
Members of the U.S. Coast Guard are in the military as well. We sometimes forget they serve as well, in every war. Not just here in and around the United States, but in the war zones too.
For several decades now I’ve been of the opinion that people who served in the Peace Corps should be honored as veterans as well. Their missions were much different than that of the military, but these mostly young people went to countries on several continents to be of service to struggling communities and spread the American ideals the military fights to defend. But they get no recognition for it. To be sure, no one joins the Peace Corps looking for recognition. They are looking to be of service to the world.
Still, on this day when we tip our hats to military veterans, I also tip my hat to those that have served their two (or more) years in the Peace Corps. They deserve to be recognized as well.
Top photos provided by the Forks Family pictured: Carl P.J. Forkes (WWII), Carl C. Forkes (Vietnam), Tim Forkes (Vietnam Era)
Tim Forkes started as a writer on a small alternative newspaper in Milwaukee called the Crazy Shepherd. Writing about entertainment, he had the opportunity to speak with many people in show business, from the very famous to the people struggling to find an audience. In 1992 Tim moved to San Diego, CA and pursued other interests, but remained a freelance writer. Upon arrival in Southern California he was struck by how the elected government officials and business were so intertwined, far more so than he had witnessed in Wisconsin. His interest in entertainment began to wane and the business of politics took its place. He had always been interested in politics, his mother had been a Democratic Party official in Milwaukee, WI, so he sat down to dinner with many of Wisconsin’s greatest political names of the 20th Century: William Proxmire and Clem Zablocki chief among them. As a Marine Corps veteran, Tim has a great interest in veteran affairs, primarily as they relate to the men and women serving and their families. As far as Tim is concerned, the military-industrial complex has enough support. How the men and women who serve are treated is reprehensible, while in the military and especially once they become veterans. Tim would like to help change that.