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Veterans in my life

November 11, 2013 - Paul Giannamore
Last night, as the episode of the old “Hawaii Five-0” ended on the iPad (it still is good for that), I found myself not quite ready to fall asleep. And instead of counting sheep, I started counting veterans I have known.

I’ve known a lot of them. And I feel safe in saying all of them that I have known share the traits we want most in our veterans: Honor. Valor. Courage. Service.

I’ve known veterans who chose service careers, as police officers and firefighters and paramedics. I’ve known veterans who help others through their jobs, getting others in shape, counseling others. I know at least two veteran ministers, a bunch of veteran managers and an economic development bureaucrat and a florist. I’ve also known a few who just were regular mill guys doing their job.

The point I found was that all of these men and women faced whatever they faced in the services, be it wartime or peacetime, on the sea or in an office in PIttsburgh. And they served. And they give to others through their lives.

They took the steps that guys like me, who grew up in a time after the draft and who never felt the call to volunteer and thus to a certain extent skated through life, needed to continue to live in the United States of America.

And so, today, I salute Mike and Jack, John and John’s father John, Bill, Eric, Pat, Lizzy, Gabe, Matz, Harry and his son Cory, Skip, Chet, Fred and Gregg, my brother-in-law Jim and probably two dozen more that I counted as I fell asleep last night.

I thank the Rock family for their paying the ultimate price.

I thank my uncle, Egidio “Red” Giannamore, who served in the D-Day invasion at Normandy and never talked about it, telling his granddaughter a bit about it just before he passed away.

I thank my wife’s uncle, Ralph DeLeonardis, a B-17 radioman taken prisoner by the Germans.

Uncle Red and Uncle Ralph exemplified their generation, never talking about their experiences, let alone bragging about them. I never saw my uncle Red’s medals until they were displayed at his funeral. Uncle Ralph never talked about his service until the last Christmas I saw him. He knew I loved B-17’s and World War II aviation, and he proceeded to tell me the real story from his eyes as a scared kid in a big bomber with guys shooting at it all the time. There was nothing the least bit adventurous or romantic about the story, despite Hollywood’s best efforts.

We owe these guys and gals, all of them, in peace and in wartime, no matter which branch of the service they were in, a debt of gratitude we cannot repay, except by making sure this nation supports and defends the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic.

It’s the least we can do.


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