PVA From The Top – Giving Thanks

Some of the things to be thankful for this November

By Charles Brown


When I think of November, I think of contemplation periods, remembrances and celebrations such as the Marine Corps birthday, Veterans Day and Thanksgiving. I know some of my words won’t find a kind comment back. But if you think to what they’re really about, you’ll hopefully feel comfortable with them.

In 1985, I was a lance corporal in the Marine Corps stationed at Naval Air Station Cecil Field in Jacksonville, Fla. The Marine Corps’ birthday was Nov. 10, and I was requested to be on the dress blues color guard. For me, it was my first Marine Corps’ birthday and my first color guard. It was an honor to be there, but I was a bit nervous performing this function in front of all of my Corps brothers and sisters.

I made sure everything was polished and prepared for inspection. Once everything got started, I felt comfortable in line and ready to perform my duties. During the ceremonies, there was a moment of contemplation and remembrances of those who have not come home. We always set a table for the missing soldier — the one who went off to war only to never return.

One day after the Marine Corps’ birthday is Veterans Day, Nov. 11. For years, this was called Armistice Day and held at 11 a.m. Nov. 11 to commemorate the end of World War I. Congress approved the day as a legal holiday in 1938, but World War II broke out in 1939 and changed Armistice Day forever.

It’s believed the first celebration of Veterans Day was organized by World War II veteran Raymond Weeks in 1947 in Birmingham, Ala. In 1954, Rep. Edward Rees of Kansas proposed the bill to change Armistice Day to Veterans Day. It passed Congress and then-President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed it into law.

For years, I grew up with the Veterans Day celebration not being truly significant. I was born in 1965 and by the time I could remember much, Veterans Day wasn’t high on the United States’ priority list. We were in the middle of the unpopular Vietnam War, and many people had turned their backs on veterans.

After my injury in 1986, I started thinking about what I would do with my life and where I would go. While living in St. Louis, I was invited to be in one of my first Veterans Day parades. I participated in two, but I found it more fulfilling to give back to those veterans who weren’t treated so well when they came home from Vietnam.

Since 2012, I’ve traveled to Washington, D.C., and Arlington, Va., and observed the memorial services at Arlington National Cemetery, the Korean War Memorial, the Vietnam Wall and National World War II Memorial. They’re called memorial services, but I choose to call them celebrations because we’re celebrating their sacrifices and their continued service to our nation.

At the end of the month, we celebrate Thanksgiving. This may not be considered an appropriate holiday anymore, but I disagree. To me, Thanksgiving is about coming together with not just our families, but those around us with whom we who work, play and socialize.

I honor Thanksgiving by remembering my family and friends and giving them thanks for the help and friendship we’ve shared over the years. To me, it’s really about giving thanks like we do on the Marine Corps’ birthday for those who served their nation as a Marine. It’s also like Veterans Day, where we give thanks to those who serve this nation in every capacity of the military branches.

Thanksgiving is about giving thanks to those who make our daily lives better. I would like to say thank you to my family, friends and colleagues. You truly have given your all to make my life better and hopefully others’ lives, too.

If you have the ability to reach out to old friends or family members, please do so. Your phone call can change their lives forever. Holidays can be a tough time where we feel lost or forgotten. Take a moment to remember those outside your family, sitting inside a lonely hospital room or nursing home or in their own homes by themselves.

Take just a moment to think about them and reach out.

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