The main reason I entered military service resulted from my father’s leadership and example. He enlisted in the US Coast Guard after high school, as did my uncle, his older brother. They both served as enlisted men and as officers during the Korean War and during the Vietnam War. Each served for over 25 years. My father was Captain of the US Coast Guard Cutter “SPAR”, a buoy tender, and the US Coast Guard Cutter “Active”, a medium endurance cutter. SPAR is an acronym of the US Coast Guard motto “Semper Paratus, Always Ready.”
As a result of my father’s example, each of my brothers and I went into military service. I served as a pilot in the US Navy and in the US Coast Guard. My younger brother Joe served as a US Army Special Forces Green Beret and was killed in the line of duty in 1988. My youngest brother, Mike, served in the US Army and after 30 years of service, he retired as a full Colonel. Additionally, my son John served in Afghanistan for 17 months; my son Joe served as an officer in the US Navy; and my nephew Justin Clark served two tours in Iraq as a combat medic. For me, military service became a family thing.
Serving in the military is an honorable profession. It provides opportunity, challenges, camaraderie and a chance to give back. It allows us to a part of something bigger than ourselves. It goes without saying that for each service member on the front line of any conflict or mission there are scores of others, military and civilian alike, who provide the support necessary for success. It is a family thing. As writer Stephen Kinzer put it, “There are [family members], nurses, schoolteachers, addiction counselors, community organizers, social workers, coaches, probation officers, and other civilians who struggle to keep Americans from slipping toward despair, sickness, or violence. They guide people away from hopelessness and toward productive lives. Society collapses without these people. Yet we rarely give them the chance to acknowledge the gratitude of cheering multitudes.”
I definitely agree; society would collapse without the Cindy McGrews of the world.
Why did I choose to participate in Ride Allegheny? - For the same reasons that one chooses military service: the challenge, the camaraderie, a chance to give back, a chance to be a part of something bigger than myself, a chance to make a difference, a chance to honor those who have served. Why did I choose to participate in more than one Ride Allegheny? – Because once you finish you become part of a new family… it’s a family thing.
Paul, thank you again for honoring our Veterans.