A Marine Corps Veteran Reflects on Veterans Day
Military.com’s Sean Mclain Brown, a Marine Corps Gulf War era veteran, reflects on what Veterans Day means to him and his family.
Generations of my family have volunteered to serve this country through five wars.
Our journey as veterans began in World War 1 and continued on in World War 2, the Korean War, Vietnam, and the Gulf War. My great-grandfathers, grandfathers, and one grandmother served this country in the Army. My father, Larry Brown, served as a Marine Corps aviator with an F-4 squadron in Vietnam, and I served with a Marine Corps AV8B Harrier squadron during the Gulf War.
It’s easy to throw around words like honor, duty, and sacrifice. But it’s what those words are tethered to that makes Veterans Day a hallowed time of year for me.
Service to this country allows me to honor my own family’s sacrifice while making me part of the legacy of men and women who sacrificed their time and some, their lives. Veterans Day is a time that I can be thankful I can wake up in the morning safe, thankful that my children can grow up with the freedom to choose, and thankful that others in allied countries can also enjoy those same freedoms.
My family of veterans fought for their fellow Soldiers and Marines, their families, and the values of freedom, but they also knew they were fighting for others, those who could not protect themselves.
Veterans Day is a quiet time for me to reflect and give thanks to my ancestors for their many sacrifices. It’s also a time for me to honor veterans from other countries who served with valor beside my family members and a time for me to honor all veterans alive today. It’s also a difficult time for me as the flood of memories of my service, both traumatic and good, washes over me.
Marine Corps combat veteran and CEO of Team Rubicon Jake Wood once told me that civilians “don’t understand the culture and daily sacrifices that veterans make” and that it’s our responsibility to help “educate them by sharing our stories.” I agree. We need to move beyond the casual “thank you for your service” and move toward “can you tell me about your service?” to help bridge that gap between the military and civilian worlds.
My father said, “After the Vietnam and Korean wars, those who served were not recognized for their sacrifice. I remember coming thru LAX from Asia and seeing the war protesters and remembering two friends who are in unmarked graves somewhere in Vietnam... Veterans Day is a validation of all who have served and sacrificed and continue to sacrifice so much.”
Veterans Day (and Memorial Day) is a time for me to remember Lieutenant Dean Hendrix, who saved my grandfather Samuel from an overwhelming force of Germans; in fact, his quick actions saved the lives of all his men that day. It’s a time for me to remember Private Howard Gavin, who my grandfather Lawrence helped pull to safety when he was wounded from small arms fire. It’s a time for me to remember VMA-542 pilot Captain James Trey Wilbourne, who was killed in action while on a bombing mission in the Gulf War. And it’s a time for me to remember that the sacrifices men and women make while serving continue on even after they have served.
Veterans shoulder the burden of their service to this country the rest of their lives. The oath I took to protect this country endures long after my active duty service ended.
I do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.
I hold true to this oath. When you meet a veteran, thank them for their service, and if you have the time, dig a little deeper, ask them about their service to this country. In this way, we can honor the sacrifices that all veterans have made and continue to make.