Memorial Day Reflections: Lessons from Two Father Figures

Memorial Day is a significant moment for American citizens to honor the sacrifices of so many in service to our country to secure our freedoms. It underscores the personal costs of war and how crucial it is for everyday people like us to strive for a better tomorrow. The bravery and selflessness of our military personnel are inspiring and ensure the freedoms and values we cherish today, making it essential to reflect on their legacy and express our profound gratitude. Days like this always remind me of my father and my Uncle Bill. 

My father grew up in south St. Louis on the cusp of WWII, lied about his age (he was 16), and enlisted in the Navy. There was only one time that he talked about being afraid during intense combat in the war, but despite the terror, he fiercely stood his ground and demonstrated the true meaning of GRIT and how to fight for your independence. 

My dad, Harold Clark

Uncle Bill was one of a kind and the family member I was closest to. Our bond gave me a profound perspective on life, as well as an even deeper respect for the military. Like my father,  Uncle Bill was a WWII veteran, and his stories and experiences helped shape my understanding of courage and commitment. I have always respected his wisdom and life advice, most of which still guide me along my journey today. 

In his teens, Uncle Bill ran away from home with his friends, Ray “Champ” Hunt and Bob Clark (no relation), to join the military. The trio hopped on a freight train and worked odd jobs, stopped at shelters for food, and eventually made their way to Texas. When one of the boys became ill, they all sought refuge at what was then called Randolph Field, an Army Airbase/flight training facility near San Antonio. As fate would have it, the officer who obtained medical support for the ill boy gave all three of them jobs—and the rest is history. 

My Uncle Bill

Whenever I think of the “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” tenacity of the American dream and the potential this nation holds, I think of my dad and Uncle Bill. Their charismatic and exciting lives were filled with failure, success, kindness, and the everlasting value of living a life devoted to community service. Reflecting on Memorial Day encourages us to improve our institutions, ensure our liberties are preserved, and honor the fallen through our dedication to a better, more just society.

As today's world still faces ongoing challenges to democracy, Memorial Day emphasizes the need to defend our ideals and cultivate an inclusive and evolved future. It also highlights the importance of supporting veterans and active service members, acknowledging their continuous commitment to our nation.

Thank you to the countless heroes who serve and make our nation the best place to be!

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