PVA From The Top – Encouraged & Inspired

Taking time to give thanks and recognize the many men and women who have worn the uniform and sacrificed so much for our country

By Robert L. Thomas Jr.

As the nation gets ready to commemorate the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month that we have come to know as Veterans Day, I’m thankful for the many men and women who have worn the uniform and sacrificed so much for our country.

Being an Army veteran, I can relate to the sacrifices these men and women have given and also the words of gratitude from the many proud Americans who give thanks, not only on Veterans Day but each and every day of the year. 

This Veterans Day, I’ve decided to give my own personal thanks to two veterans who have inspired me throughout my life and encouraged me to become part of this elite group of men and women. Although there are many individual veterans I know who are worthy of this acknowledgement, these two are my brothers-in-law.

The first one is Staff Sgt. Ramone Fox. He retired from the U.S. Air Force after serving 25 years. I remember going to Homestead, Fla., to visit him and my sister and having the conversation of what I was going to do after graduating from high school. The thought was there’s nothing out there and I should go ahead and join the military. After that conversation, I recall countless others telling me about what jobs the Air Force had to offer.

The other veteran who inspired me is retired U.S. Marine Sgt. Kenyon Jones. He was medically retired after sustaining a back injury in 1999. Kenyon and I are much closer in age. During our childhood years, we grew up like most young men do — with the dreams of becoming professional athletes. 

For Kenyon, that dream came to an end in 1985, when he joined the Marine Corps and completed basic training at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C. He was eventually stationed at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune in North Carolina.

After graduating from high school, I recollect going to Camp Lejeune and spending my summer with him. That’s when my dream of playing pro sports ended, too. We spent our time at the gym working out. While there, many Marines would ask Kenyon, “When are you getting him in boots?” His response always was, “I am working on it, sir.” 

When I talked with Ramone and Kenyon around this time of my life, I asked them what motivated them to join the military. Both of their answers were to take advantage of the opportunity to go to college.

Being the sixth of seven children, I could really relate to that answer. Seeing that my parents were a part of the hard-working middle class, college might not have been an option. I decided to take their advice and join the military. 

In wanting to pave my own path, I chose not to be an Airman or Marine, but to be “All I Can Be,” so I joined the Army.

This Veterans Day, I raise my right hand and give a salute to all veterans, with a particular, personal thank you to my brothers-in-law, or I should say, brothers-in-law by chance and friends by choice. 

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