I’ve seen a bunch of people thank my dad for serving in the Marines. I’ve just never been one of them.
I’ve written here about my dad before. As much as I like to poke fun of his old man ways he’s one of my favorite people. I won the dad lottery for sure.
My dad was in the Marines. He’s a retired Colonel that I humble-brag about whenever I can because on a superficial level, having a dad that’s a retired Marine Colonel is automatic badass points. On a more serious note I really respect him for it. I’m proud of him.
Because he was in the Marines we always had Marine Corp tee-shirts floating around the house, usually of the mass produced variety that always wear way too big and baggy. I get around this by cutting off the sleeves and using them as workout gear. I was wearing one at the gym the other day, a real ratty number that I’ve had for years and is covered in paint and grease stains, when a fellow gym-goer accosted me. He stuck his hand out and thanked me.
I was confused.
For your service, he elaborated, indicating my shirt. I’d forget I was wearing it and apologized for any misleading advertising. I explained I wasn’t in the service and it was just a workout shirt. He wasn’t satiated. It’s disrespectful, he pointed out, to all the veterans out there. I told him about my dad. He apologized for getting angry. That makes sense he said. He was a member of the national guard “back in the day” and it made him angry how veterans don’t get the respect they deserve. It was cool to be proud of my dad he said, thank him for me. No one thanks veterans anymore, he added. I told him I would and went back to whatever I was doing then. But I realized something.
I’ve never thanked my dad, for serving that is. I’ve thanked him plenty for other stuff.
I’ve thanked him for not losing his head that time I called sophomore year of college and admitted to failing a class for the first time. I’ve thanked him multiple times for coming to help me with a blown out tire or when I ran out of gas. I’ve thanked him for buying my beers every time we go out. I’ve thanked him for helping proofread my resume and job applications, and for allowing my friends to perennially invade our home. I’ve thanked him for taking a personal day off of work and driving two hours to help me move on short notice when I found myself in a less than desirable living situation.
But I’ve never thanked him for serving.
I’ve seen other people, his friends, my friends, strangers who struck up conversation, say, “thanks for serving,” but I’ve never muttered those words.
And the thing is it’s not that my dad is one of those men of few words. We talk often, he texts me a lot and I’m not going to ever have one of those “I wish I told him how much I loved him when I had the chance” moments. But for whatever reason, thanking him for this particular deed never occurred to me.
I think that part of it is that we weren’t raised to thank Veterans. I was raised to respect Veterans. We come from a family that has a longstanding military tradition, but my dad never insisted that I should thank Veterans. I think that part just comes from being a Marine. They don’t do it for the thanks. In fact, they don’t wear their fatigues or dress whites out in public so as to not bring attention to themselves. Marines serve selflessly, not being thanked comes with the territory. I’m trying now to think if he has any apparel that would indicate his veteran status. I think maybe one baseball hat that says Marine Corps. Most of the sweatshirts he wears bear the name of his alma mater, or show fatherly pride in the form of Drexel or the University of Scranton.
I think another part might be because Jim Brothwell the retired Colonel, and Jim Brothwell my dad are separate entities. My dad was in the Reserves. We didn’t live the military lifestyle. He’d leave a weekend a month and for a few weeks in the summertime, but the only moving we did was from my parent’s starter house to the one they built a couple miles away when I was in 5th grade. When he came home, he was just my dad. And he never ran our house like a barracks. Organized chaos would be a better descriptor, although I’m surprised he didn’t make us drop and do 20 for lingering too long in the open fridge door or leaving lights on when we left the house, habits that will still turn him into a drill sergeant today.
And I guess that maybe I’d never thought to thank him because he never saw combat duty? That’s not something that was up to him. He was just lucky enough to serve during a time when combat duty wasn’t where the Marine Corp needed him. That shouldn’t change the way I look at what he’s done for our country. It took incredible sacrifice, fortitude, diligence and strength of character for him to get where he was and like any good military man he didn’t just do it for himself, or for his family (although I’m sure that second income went miles to provide me with my incredibly comfortable childhood) but for the greater good.
Look how I’m rationalizing here. The reason I never thanked him could be any of these reasons or it could be because I’m too lazy or too inconsiderate or too wrapped up in my own problems to pay heed, but I’d rather not go down those roads today.
I’d rather simply rectify the situation.
So better late than never, on behalf of all of us too wrapped up in our own bullshit, and just in time for Veteran’s Day.
Photo: Marine Corps Archives & Special Collections/Flickr