Patriots become veterans
November 10, 2009
- Veterans Day is Nov. 11 - originally in honor of the cease-fire ending World War I
- The cease fire occurred on the 11th hour, of the 11th day, of the 11th month in 1918
- Veterans Day was orignially called Armistice Day, but in 1954 the name changed and the holiday was expanded to include all veterans
Each man was 22 years old when he joined the Army. Neither one had children or a spouse. Both men served part of their duty in the Middle East, and both are proud to be service members.
This, however, is not a tale of high school friends or of battle buddies. This is a tale of a father and son - a veteran and a future veteran.
"I was so proud of Nick when he joined the Army," said John C. Race Jr., a retired colonel and currently the assistant commandant at the U.S. Army Transportation School in Fort Eustis, Va. "It was a proud moment because he had decided to follow in my footsteps."
Staff Sgt. Nicholas "Nick" J. Race -- enlisted in June 2001. John was commissioned a second lieutenant in January 1972, and he retired with 30 years of service seven months after Nick joined.
"It was a sort of 'passing of the torch' when I joined," Nick said. "My dad was my inspiration to join the Army. He swore me in, and then a few months later, he retired."
While Nick is inspired by his father's service, his father is inspired by and proud of his son's service.
"I am proud to have a son in the Army because America is made up of a lot of great young men and women just like (Nick) who are willing to serve while we are at war," John said. "There is something special about young men and women who are willing to do that when they could have done something that has fewer risks and sacrifices. America owes our service men and women a great deal."
One way that the United States honors that service and commitment is through Veterans Day.
Veterans Day - Nov. 11 - was established in 1919 as Armistice Day to celebrate the cease-fire of World War I on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918.
In 1938, Armistice Day was made an annual legal holiday, and in 1954, the day was changed to Veterans Day and expanded to celebrate service members from all wars, not just World War I.
In the current environment when most service members have deployed at least once, Americans must remember the sacrifices of today's service members and the sacrifices of their predecessors.
"One of my saddest memories was leaving my family en route to Saudi Arabia in support of Operation Desert Shield in 1990," John said. "My most poignant memory was my return in April 1991. My family met me at the airport as our plane came in. It was a pretty happy time."
Nick followed in his father's footsteps when he deployed to the Middle East in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom while he was stationed in Italy.
"It felt good to be back in Italy (after my deployment)," Nick said. "Felt a little strange because I couldn't believe we were home. For the majority of us, this was our first deployment. We had some veterans of Desert Storm, and one or two who had deployed to Afghanistan in 2001, but for the most part we were all new at it."
As of June 2009, 171,500 service members were deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, and 59,000 were deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
"I wish I could have served on active duty during Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom," John said. "These young Soldiers are being asked to sacrifice a great deal, and I would have been honored to serve with them."
Nick said his father does have great respect and honor for service members.
"He was always for the troops. He never really wanted a job that kept him behind a desk," Nick said. "He'd rather be in the field teaching and training Soldiers on what we do."
Nick has said that, like his father, he plans to make a career of the military.
"It gives me a sense of pride to serve my country," he said.
John, even though he has rested his weapons and hung his boots, feels he made the right choice of careers.
"If I were asked to do it all over again," he said, "I would."
<i>The Things That Make a Soldier Great</i>
Edgar Guest, 1918
The things that make a soldier great and send him out to die,
To face the flaming cannon's mouth nor ever question why,
Are lilacs by a little porch, the row of tulips red,
The peonies and pansies, too, the old petunia bed,
The grass plot where his children play, the roses on the wall:
'Tis these that make a soldier great.
He's fighting for them all.
'Tis not the pomp and pride of kings that make a soldier brave;
'Tis not allegiance to the flag that over him may wave;
For soldiers never fight so well on land or on the foam
As when behind the cause they see the little place called home.
Endanger but that humble street whereon his children run,
You make a soldier of the man who never bore a gun.
What is it through the battle smoke the valiant soldier sees'
The little garden far away, the budding apple trees,
The little patch of ground back there, the children at their play,
Perhaps a tiny mound behind the simple church of gray.
The golden thread of courage isn't linked to castle dome
But to the spot, where'er it be - the humblest spot called home.
And now the lilacs bud again and all is lovely there
And homesick soldiers far away know spring is in the air;
The tulips come to bloom again, the grass once more is green,
And every man can see the spot where all his joys have been.
He sees his children smile at him, he hears the bugle call,
And only death can stop him now -- he's fighting for them all.