To my sweet baby boy,
There are so many things I don’t know about you yet. You have yet to make your entrance into this world — about three weeks to go. I don’t know what color your eyes will be or what your smile will look like. I don’t know if you’ll inherit the gap I had in my two front teeth as a child or my disdain for peanut butter and math. I don’t know if you’ll have freckles sprinkled across your nose or if you’ll snore like your daddy. I don’t know what your future holds, but I do know where you came from.
If I could patch the pieces of your lineage together like a quilt that you could see, it would show colors like Army green and Air Force blue, with a splash of Marine Corps red. You come from a long line of veterans, four generations (that I know of) that have proudly served all over the world. I’d start with the pieces of your daddy and me and work my way back, piece by piece, to create a patchwork that you could look back on and see where your history and our pride comes from on Veterans Day and always.
Your daddy and I served a combined total of 20 years in the Air Force, him serving 12 and me serving eight. In fact, that’s how we met. Our story started at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Alabama in 2013. Years before that, in 2009, we happened to be stationed at the same base in South Korea, but we never knew each other. I guess fate decided to intervene and bring us together four years later.
You’ll likely hear lots of stories of our service as you grow up. They might include details from your daddy’s four deployments to a really hot place called Qatar or how I never knew how cold it could get in Iraq and Afghanistan in the winter. They might include hard lessons learned or valuable skills we acquired along the way, all of them molding us into the parents that will impart the same wisdom on you.
You’ll hear of your uncle Joey often, which is where your middle name comes from. Though the stories won’t come from him, I hope you hold them close to your heart. He’s the splash of Marine Corps red in your family quilt that we are all so proud of. Your daddy has lots of funny memories to share about him. I never had the pleasure of meeting Joey, you see, because he was called to heaven after a deployment to Iraq. Just know that your uncle was a spitfire that forged a path of adventure and laughter wherever he went. If he could, he would surely sit you on his lap and share those stories with you himself.
Here’s where I sprinkle in some more blue patchwork: my mom and dad, your grandma and grandpa, also met each other when serving in the Air Force together. Your grandma served during what’s referred to as the Cold War. She was trained in civil engineering to rapidly repair runways if the Cold War suddenly turned hot. She made sure the U.S. was prepared to defend itself, which was a non-traditional job for females, at the time. My dad, your grandpa, served in Vietnam and retired after 20 years. Though your grandpa won’t be able to tell you about his career or the places the Air Force took him, you can always ask your grandma about her service. She can tell you all about Alaska, South Dakota, and California. And if you’re so brazen, you can also ask her how to fold hospital corners with bed sheets and about her special white glove dust test. My suggestion is to steer clear of those military discipline-type things and just ask her for ice cream and the proper way to render a salute. She’ll love that!
There are more quilt pieces that tell the story of where you came from dating back to the 1950’s. My grandma and grandpa, your great-grandparents, met because of the Air Force. Though your great-grandma didn’t serve, six of her seven brothers did, and they introduced your great-grandpa Ray to your great-grandma Millie. Your great-grandma’s brothers held careers in everything from para-rescue to aircraft mechanics. Your great-grandfather was a KC-135 mechanic and served for nine-and-a-half years. Here he is in his dress blues on the day he married the love of his life.
There are many more pieces to this family quilt of honor and pride, but I’d be writing you a novel if I included everyone. One day I will share each family member’s story directly with you. This is a giant quilt that will hopefully continue to grow. The meaning behind it all is something I hope you carry with you throughout life. It’s the reason we take pause to thank those who have served and are still serving. It’s the reason we shake the hands of those in uniform when we are out and about. It’s the reason we sleep soundly at night. It’s the reason we put a hand over our hearts when we hear the national anthem play. And it’s what has tied and blended this family together over generations.
We have a long lineage of proud service, and that’s something I know for sure will be a part of you, no matter the freckles on your face, the gap in your teeth, or the color of your eyes. You, my son, are part of this beautiful history that I hope shines through your eyes with every Pledge of Allegiance, every crossing of your heart, and every story of military service shared with you on Veterans Day and always.