Today’s final Memorial Week feature belongs to the United States Marine Corps. Surprisingly, this article was the hardest to write. Not for lack of something to say but because my words were too many. The Marine Corps is something special to me; something to be esteemed and respected. The First to Fight…always ready, always faithful. I have spent a life in awe of them.
My father served in the Marine Corps during the Vietnam War. He enlisted at 17, asking his step-father to sign a waiver. When the recruitment office found reason to deem him physically unfit, he began doing standing back-flips, holding up the line until they changed their mind. Some thought he was crazy. The Marine Corps thought he was perfect.
That’s my dad in the photo. Well, that’s not truly my dad…that’s some super buff nineteen year old holding a tremendously menacing weapon who looks a lot like my brother. I grew up seeing these strange photos littered around the house but it was always hard to make the connection.
This man is tough and hardened. My father was the one we went to when mom said no to something. This man is dangerously fearless. My father stayed awake at night thinking about installing airbags in my Jeep Wrangler.
It isn’t my place to tell you the heroics of my father and the Marines with whom he served. That’s already been done. Though I encourage you to read his account of the war, suffice it to say my father survived Vietnam, a feat in itself, and did it with great bravery. He brought honor to his Marine Corps.
But like so many veterans, the cruel truth was that surviving Vietnam was simply the first war to overcome. The triumph of “returning home” was always a beautiful mirage; a lie clung to with desperation and whispered about at night. There would be no real return from Vietnam. It would haunt them in their dreams, debilitate them with illnesses, and shackle them to a life of painful memories. It was to be their burden to carry forever.
This Memorial Day, I challenge you to not only honor those brave men and women who have sacrificed their lives for our beautiful nation (though please, please, do.) I beg you to consider spending time with our living veterans who far too often go ignored. Contact your local VA hospital and ask how you can help, volunteer with Feed Our Vets to provide food for homeless veterans, or get involved with Wounded Warrior Project and support those who returned injured and marred.
Though I’m grateful for Memorial Day, it isn’t enough to just remember our heroes. Don’t wait until November to pay your respect to our veterans, make it a priority this weekend and throughout the year.
I’ve seen the cost of their service. I’m challenged to pay my dues. I hope you are too.
If you were formerly or are currently in the United States Marine Corps, Central Vacuum Stores would like to celebrate your service with 5% off your total purchase! Visit our Facebook Page to learn more or contact our sales team for more info at 1-800-221-8227.
More Photos of Johnnie M. Clark: