For those who served and those who still do
By E. Adam Porter
I wrote this for The News of Sun City Center on Veterans Day a few years back. Re-publishing it here with a few updates.
Saturday, November 11, 2017 is Veterans Day. In celebration of this day, I want to recognize some of the veterans who made a difference in my life.
I was raised an “Army brat,” my ex-stepfather was a military policeman who was frequently deployed when I was growing up. I remember Christmases when we received BDUs and canteens. Combat boots from the BX and machetes from Panama. Letters and cassette tapes from some anonymous patch of desert. Two of my brothers followed in this legacy, joining the Army shortly after high school graduation.
I went another direction, but have always carried with me a deep and abiding respect for the men and women who swore the vows and served our country. Countless veterans have had a positive and powerful impact on my life. Let me introduce a few of them.
Julian Dixon, my grandfather, was a proud veteran of the United States Army. He served as a Captain in World War 2 and a Major in Korea. Though he passed away before I was born, I grew up hearing his “war stories” secondhand from my mother. By all accounts, Major Dixon was a man of strong character. A man who led with distinction, proud of his opportunity to serve his country. After he left the Army, Grandpa retired to Orange Springs, Florida where my mother and her twin brother, Robbie, grew up. He was devoted to his family and doted on his wife. He passed away suddenly while at work, Tuesday, December 8, 1959. If I could be granted one wish in this life, it would be to have a beer with Major Dixon.
Robert Dixon, my uncle, enlisted in the United States Air Force right out of high school. Like most boys his age, it was either enlist or get drafted. Uncle Robbie spent two tours in Vietnam. He doesn’t talk much about the war, but when he does speak, about his military service or anything else, Robbie is well worth listening to. A source of quiet wisdom with a prodigious memory, a strong appreciation and good ear for great music and little tolerance for political nonsense, his perspective has provided me with much wisdom, inspiration and conversation.
John Sholine was a neighbor of ours when I was growing up. Our family ranched quarter horses. He ran cattle and occasionally purchased horses from us. What I remember most about Mr. Sholine was his passion for reading. He is one of a handful of people who encouraged me to pursue a writing career. In many ways, John Sholine is indirectly responsible for the way I have been providing for my family now for umpteen years. He introduced me to his favorite authors, and many of them became my own. Then, upon my graduation from high school, Mr. Sholine presented me with a poem he had written way back in 1945. He had scribbled it on some scrap paper, a nervous teenager trying to pass the night in a foxhole somewhere in Germany. The opening stanza began: “What manner of man am I, where do my intentions lie?” I remember thinking, if this was an important enough question to write down in the middle of a war, it was probably worth consideration. I still ask myself that question any time I feel life slipping out of control.
Brian Pomeroy came into my mother’s life about 20 years ago, and he has set about making those years the best of her life ever since. He is a good man in every way that matters. I have also had the privilege to know Brian’s father, Wyman Pomeroy. It is clear to all who knew him, from whom Brian learned to be a man. It is equally clear that he took these lessons to heart, quietly leading by example, and building a reputation for integrity in and out of the service. Brian joined the USAF just out of high school and did “the whole twenty” before retiring. He spent much of that time as an award-winning Air Force recruiter. He shared his invaluable experience and wisdom with my eldest son when Chris first became interested in military service.
Christian Merrell has been my son since he was four years old. As he grew up, I did my best to instill in Chris a sense of duty, honor and responsibility. He was always a protector, looking out for kids who others looked down on. He first showed interest in military service during his sophomore year in high school. Today he is in the final year of his original enlistment in the United States Air Force. His service had taken him from Texas to England to Korea and, now, to California. It has done his dad’s heart good to see the positive impact the military has had on him. I am proud of Chris and honored by his decision to serve his fellow citizens in this way.
I hope introducing you to these men sparks fond memories of the veterans who have helped shape your life. No matter when, where or how long they served, veterans are people first, regular folks who just happened to choose to do extraordinary things. They deserve our respect and our thanks. And they could probably use a hug.