It’s Veteran’s Day 2016 and our social media feeds are respectfully filled with American flags and other symbolic gestures by Americans whose rights have been defended by our brave military veterans since 1776. And while no one presently working for Elasticity has ever served our nation (we miss you Eric Ketzer!), we all either know and respect someone who has served, or have been impacted by some event or demonstration of patriotism.
With no format requirement nor bar for AP Style or poetic license, today we offer our thanks and recollections of those events and personal service to the United States:
Kevin Erickson: My nephew is an Army veteran (Military Police) who served two tours in Afghanistan. I am deeply proud of and grateful for his determination and bravery in fighting for our freedom in adverse and potentially dangerous conditions on the other side of the world.
David Naoroz: In May 1991, I was attending Virginia Commonwealth University and one of my fraternity brothers whom I’d actually never met, David Naoroz, was returning home from the first Iraq war. I’d become close with Dave’s best friend from growing up and his sister Danielle who routinely spoke of his admirable character. And although I’d never met Dave, I felt like I knew him — that I wanted to know him — and I drove Quantico to pick him up upon returning from Iraq to greet and thank him.
Ed Byers: In 2015, we were hired by the United States Navy. Through that engagement I met Ed Byers, a Navy SEAL who had been informed he would receive the Medal of Honor from President Barack Obama for bravery in battle. Ed has since become a friend, and his decency and bravery are things I marvel at. Read his story here in the Washington Post.
The First Race Post-9/11: I managed Army recruiting programs at various events (NASCAR, AFL, NHRA, XFL and more) for six years, beginning in 2000. After 9/11, things were understandably more somber on our event sites. The first race I went to following the tragedy was in Kansas City. We had a manual belay rock wall. That means a person is in charge of holding the rope to ensure the climber doesn’t free fall if they slip. It’s a workout. On this day our event began before the race. When the National Anthem began, the entire NASCAR midway froze and looked to the flag on our event site to show their respect. It was like the entire area was paused. This included both a climber and a staff member holding them up. For the entirety of the song he held this climber still with one hand while saluting with the other. Coolest show of patriotism and dedication I’ve ever seen.
Leonard Pesek: My grandfather served in the Navy during WWII. At the time he and my grandmother hadn’t gotten married yet but they grew up together in St. Louis City, so they kept in touch while he was away by writing letters. Now my grandma Olga isn’t one to just wait around for a man. She’s a feisty, smart woman who is always full of energy and surprises. So while she was writing my grandpa letters overseas, he wasn’t the only serviceman she was writing to. My grandpa ended up figuring out that she was also writing to another guy who was serving on the SAME SHIP AS HIM. He knew he had to lock that down before someone else did so he proposed to her in a letter that she still has to this day. He passed away when I was in middle school so I didn’t get to hear a lot about his service during the war, but I will always cherish this amazing story.
Andy Blackwell: My father served in the Marine Corps as a Sergeant from 1974-1978. He was stationed at Camp Pendleton in California, and needless to say, while growing up, my older brother and I were never spared the rod. He was a boxer at 126 lbs. and could easily out spar the guy at that weight on the Camp Pendleton boxing team. The boxing coach wanted my dad on the team and when my dad asked his commanding officer if he could switch from the infantry to the boxing team — the officer went berserk and said “Andy, you didn’t join the Marines to be a boxer! You joined the Marines to be a trained killer and it’s my job to get you there!”. That was the end of my dad’s boxing career but he did work out with the team from time to time. When they had a big fight coming up, the coach would ask him to spar with their heavyweight and try to speed him up. I always loved hearing his stories while I was growing up and still do today.
John Kasperski: Last year, my uncle Col. John Kasperski retired from the U.S. Marine Corps after serving for 29 years. I remember as a child seeing him at family gatherings. Every time I would lay eyes on him, he’d jokingly “throw a bow” to his palm in display of how he could, if he wanted, “erase the face” of any threatening human on this planet. He always provided “big picture” context to everything, reassuring me that the people protecting our hamburger eating asses were indeed some of the toughest people on earth. Some of his memorable quotes included:
- “I could kill you with 249 things in this room, two of them being my fists.”
- “I have more stamps in my passport than you have hairs on your head.”
- “Greetings from Bahrain, the knucklehead kids here play a game called cricket, possibly the most boring game ever invented.”
- “I’m dodging bad guys and bombs just so you can watch your St. Louis Blues without worry.”
- “Tell your mother that I will be enlisting you in the Marine Corps – she’ll be thrilled!”
Mark Erwin: He served for five years as a Rifleman in the U.S. Marine Corps. He is one of the most honorable and dedicated people I know, and I am proud of him and the years of service he dedicated to our country.