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Today I thank my Pop for serving bravely in Vietnam, returning with a Purple Heart, a hardened exterior and a shitload of memories I never want to try and comprehend. I thank him for fighting in a very controversial war – hell, they all are – because it simply was the job he signed up for.

I thank him for continually battling the scars that war left him with through the years and the ability to not only maintain, but succeed. I thank him for knowing the right amount of toughness to instill in me, without sacrificing our relationship in the process or my ability to have a soft side, believe it or not.

I have some real issues with the way this man has chosen to lead his life in recent years but, Chuck Norris knows, I’ve given him ample opportunity to take issue with how I’ve lived mine at times too. He raised me when he didn’t have to, bailing my mother and siblings out of an uncertain future, getting his ass out of bed each day, despite minimal sleep and unfathomable nightmares, and went to work.

He didn’t make himself a victim and I’ve never heard him question the duty he performed. He has a slew of medals and earned every fucking one of them on the battlefield, but this humble, even undeservingly shameful at times, man has earned just as many in “real” life.

He has now directly touched the lives of at least 7-of us as a Father and Grandfather, none of which he actually has a blood relation to. I won’t get into the relationships he had before coming to my family because it’s none of my business and I can only judge a man by what I’ve known of him. I know that I grow more respect for what he did in raising me as each year passes and as I face my own hurdles in fatherhood, and I know that he gave me the tools to be one hell of a man, in spite of what I’ve often chosen to do with those tools.

I don’t know how much longer I’ll have Pop around and I greatly regret the lack of closeness that seems to continually grow between us, by way of logistics, our individual self struggles and the trials that life just seems to deal a family. I do know that my heart will break when I get the word I’ve been dreading for over a decade now but my heart will also swell with pride that he was mine, if you will.

You are my absolute favorite Veteran, Pop. My United States Marine, Mortar Soldier, Purple Heart recipient, Father and provider and I couldn’t be more proud to wish you a happy Veteran’s Day. I truly thank you for what you gave over there as a soldier and gave over here as a father, both of which allowed me to give what I can each day in my various titles in life.

I extend my thanks as well to my brother, cousin, brother in law and biological dad, who also served honorably, though not in conflict, which doesn’t erase the fact that the possibility existed and that they willingly accepted that very real truth in exchange for what they believed in and the path they were hoping to follow in the decision.

I could list various other family members, but these are the ones closest to me and, therefore, have impacted my life the most. My thanks go out to all Veterans, as all of ours should. The old “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it” will always ring true and our soldiers should serve as our first reminder each day. They are tangible and every one of us has direct access to one, whether currently uniformed or not.

I thank each and every Veteran I meet, regardless of the day, as soon as I’m aware that they are a Veteran, and regardless of any other personal opinions I may have of them. I’ve met plenty that are genuine assholes, but plenty of people out there undoubtedly say the same of me, and I never put a uniform on, which will always still put me a peg below them.

I sincerely thank the Veteran who is now a criminal, junkie, an absentee Father/husband or even some gang-banging piece of shit. I thank the Veteran who loudly boasts of his “kills” and brags with the façade of some bullshit apparent disregard for other human life because he thinks it makes him sound tough or cool.

The reasons for all of these are many and often self inflicted. But a great deal are also our own fault as a society who seems more than willing to quickly forget their service once it has been completed, and blindly throws them to the various wolves and demons that are waiting for them on “the other side”. Regardless of how they’re now serving their public life, I thank them for the simple fact that they once picked up a weapon in my defense, or were willing to, without having ever met me.

I hear bleeding heart groups cry loud and accusingly of how enough is not done to offer a recently released prisoner an avenue for success and redemption once they have “served” their time. I know it may sound harsh but, provided they did the crime that put them there, well I’m sorry, but fuck them. You know whose job it is to show you the door to rehabilitation? It is yours and yours alone.

And you know who we should loudly be screaming about not receiving enough proper care and path for success after TRULY “serving” somewhere – THE AMERICAN SOLDIER.

Remember, it’s not just a Monday off, people…KMFP-out!

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