I suppose I come from what’s left of America’s warrior class. Not the noblesse oblige style warrior that dominated the officer corps from the Civil War to World War II, but a working class stock of martial warrior who serves for a sense of individual purpose, and who coincidentally comes from a line of previous warriors.
I was raised in the martial culture, and was drawn to its machinations, as many boys are. As I grew, I came to understand the necessities behind the ceremony and discipline, and I began to feel the heartbeat behind its martial rhythms. I was attracted to the rigors of the military and the sense honor that comes with service. It was my attraction to the elemental foundations of martial service that put me on my career path.
My grandfather served as a Sergeant in World War I with the AEF. He was (reportedly) a tough, feisty Scots-Irish man who earned his citizenship for his service with the artillery corps. He was scarred by mustard attacks, and died before I was old enough to speak, his lungs no longer capable of supplying him oxygen. His service (along will hundreds of thousands of other Americans) shortened the war, and helped save the lives of thousands of more Europeans on both sides, and should be noted as the heroic endeavor that it was. I wear his well-worn and smoothed “Past Commander” American Legion ring on special occasions.
My father served as a pilot in the Marine Corps for thirteen years. He quit college to enter the Naval Aviation Cadet Program. He graduated, re-trained into fleet aircraft and was shipped to Korea. He eventually flew missions into Vietnam as well, but left the service in 1966 when he failed selection to Major. He served because it was part of his persona…he “fit” the military. His service restored South Korea’s borders and extended American policy in Southeast Asia. I wear his well-worn Marine Corps ring, the one that served as his wedding band, on special occasions as well.
I took my first oath of office in 1974 as a Midshipman at Tulane University. It was a course that was neither chosen for me, nor pushed upon me. It was a choice made from a deep seated respect for the martial lifestyle, and from a sense that this country provided the entirety of my immigrant genealogy with opportunities that Ireland and Holland could not have, and that some measure of payment was required. This is a debt that is not settled simply by one generation, but it is a debt more akin to a type of generational mortgage. A debt that should be continually worked off, generation to generation, in return for the opportunity and prosperity this country has offered, and provided.