This Veterans Day, I am thinking of the men and women who have served our country, but also the unique way in which we encounter them. With many of the veterans in our lives, their service occurred long before we met them. However, we have the privilege of seeing how that experience has helped to make them who they are to us, our communities, and our country today.
In the 18 years since taking off my Army camouflage for the last time, it has been rare to see someone in a service uniform in the normal course of life. Outside of military installations, we encounter those who served in another context. They are wearing civilian clothes and doing non-military work. Their service to our country was in the past and probably far away from where they are today.
For what may have been a brief period of their lives, as early as their teenage years, they were joined in a common experience defending our country. For that we are grateful. We hope that people of their caliber continue to answer the call to service. After that time in service though, they became something else. Their identity was no longer the uniform they wore, the unit in which they served, or the “Hooah” with which they affirmed all things.
Instead, they became professionals and managers, mothers and fathers, community leaders and soccer coaches. That is where we meet so many of them. Once we know that military service was part of their story, we begin to see the role it played in their formation and their approach to life.
Long before I came along, my grandfather was a Marine. He lived with his young bride in California, preparing for service in the Pacific Theater in World War II. I never knew him as a Marine, though. I knew him as “Lefty” Morton, the legendary soccer coach. Someone who was known for unselfishness, loyalty, and dependability. Traits of a Marine, to be sure.
When I married my wife, two weeks after leaving the Army, I also married into a family of veterans. I observed the character of her grandfather, who earned his citizenship fighting with the 3rd Army in Western Europe. I witnessed how my father-in-law’s service to his community was a natural extension of his time as an Army sergeant during the Vietnam era.
Sometimes we do not get to see the person who served, but we have the fortune to see how their service helped make them who they are.
As an entrepreneur in the Lehigh Valley, I have been fortunate to meet veterans who continue to advance their professions and lead in a way that is a natural extension of their military service. When we don’t see those in uniform around us every day, we have to look just below the surface to see how military experience is in the fabric of our community through the contributions of veterans.
To all those who we never saw in uniform: Your leadership is a credit to veterans everywhere. Thank you.
I want to end with special gratitude for my friends who continue to wear the Army uniform more than 20 years after we were commissioned. I look forward to another November 11th full of text messages, sharing pictures, and reminiscing on a season of life that none of us can or will forget.
Prior to his professional career, Dennis Morton served as a captain in the United States Army in the Air Defense Artillery. For his service in Operation Iraqi Freedom, Dennis was awarded a Bronze Star Medal.