Thursday, November 11, 2010

Veteran's Day

Today is a great day to be proud of our nation. It is a day of solemn homage, and also a day to be proud of and thankful for the freedoms we enjoy as American citizens.

Whatever your opinions of the current and past actions and inactions of the American military, you still owe a certain measure of gratitude and especially respect to the men and women who give their lives defending our country. I know that at times we are disappointed in or even angry with the actions of individuals in our military. Sometimes this displeasure is entirely justifiable. The military is not without flaws, but every human institution has its flaws. The good of the U.S. military far outweighs the bad, and, until the wonderful time when there is no need for a standing army, our military will continue to defend the American people.

I hope that at some point today everyone has a chance to reflect on the meaning of Veteran’s Day and the people who have given their lives throughout our nation’s history in order to preserve the ideals of the United States of America. I’m going to take the opportunity to reflect right now, and in doing so I’d also like to share a personal story.

My family has been in every American war from the American Revolution (Ethan Allen) through Operation Desert Storm (Kevin Steele). This includes my grandfather, Theodore Myers, who served in Vietnam.

The story I’d like to focus on is that of my great-grandmother’s younger brother (I don’t know the proper term for that relation), Otis Perkins. Otis was a senior engineering student at the University of Kansas when he left to volunteer for service during the build up to WWII. He entered the military before the U.S. entered into war.

He enlisted first in the army and then in the U.S. Army Air Corps. In this capacity, he was stationed at Hickam Air Field in Hawaii and was there when it was attacked by the Japanese in 1941. He survived the attack and entered into service in the Pacific theater. He flew recon missions for Army artillery in a small unarmed plane. He was a very successful pilot and survived countless battles.

April 29, 1945, during the Battle of Okinawa, Captain Otis Perkins was riding as an observer in a Marine Corps Plane. The plane was shot down in the course of the battle. Then a peculiarity of the military and its distinct branches took effect. Because the Marine Corps is a division of the Navy, the plane was under Navy jurisdiction, and it is the policy of the U.S. Navy that burial at sea is honorable. Thus, the Navy will not attempt to locate or recover the plane. If Captain Perkins had been shot down while flying his own plane, the U. S. Army would have attempted to recover the plane and his body.

Captain Perkins served in the U.S Army for 5 years, fighting in the pacific theatre from the very beginning, but was killed just 3 ½ months before the end of the war.

I first heard this powerful story from my father, and it sparked my desire to serve my country, which I intend to do as a lawyer, politician, or in another government position. I don’t know what my future holds, but I do know that service to my country will somehow be a part of it.

With this story and my sincere desire to honor Otis Perkins, I took an opportunity afforded me by the Presidential Classroom program and was selected for the honor of laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at the Arlington National Cemetery.
That's me in the back left.

I will never forget the experience. I was able to honor Captain Otis Perkins and all of the other veterans in my family. It was an amazing feeling to be able to honor them in this way. On each of the two Veteran’s Days (including today) since then I have been able to call to mind that experience and reflect on the veterans in my family, past and present.
I was able to thank my Grandfather for his service earlier today; I urge you to take this day to remember how much we all owe to our veterans, and, if you can, take the time to thank any veterans you know.

P.S.
If you would like to do something tangible to help out the veterans and military personnel who have done so much for us: http://www.serve.gov/vets.asp

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

An eloquent and personal reminder about a day so many of us ignore.

Anonymous said...

Good for you going to Arlington and honoring the memory of our veterans,I don't know why the Marine Corps never searched for the aircraft wreckage, Captain Perkins was lost in an artillery observation mission over land, probably for the 7th Infantry Division as he was assigned to the division's 75th JASCO.