I am blessed to come from a family with an Armed Services tradition. My father, Dick Koen, and his brothers Ed and Gail served in the military in World War II. Uncle Ed served with an artillery group in Europe. Uncle Gail drove ambulances in the Philippines. My dad joined just as the war ended. My step-father, Raymond Kelly, had a very intense military service. Joining the military in May of 1941 he was assigned to Pearl Harbor and was there during the infamous surprise attack. He participated in many of the beach invasions in the Japanese theatre. Pictured: from left to right Dick Koen, Ed Koen, and Gail Koen.
More recently my son-in-law, Mike Black, served as an Army Ranger in Iraq and Afghanistan where he lost his left leg in combat operations. One of the greatest gifts I have ever received was when Mike gave me one of his purple heart awards (yes, he had more than one!) I did not have the honor of serving but did support the military directly in my first job after college. I worked as a Department of Defense civilian at the National Security Agency for my first 5 years following graduation.
For those of my relatives that served in combat they have one trait in common – they rarely discuss their military service. When I was 8 years old and visiting my Grandma before school my Uncle Ed stopped in to visit. Uncle Ed told a couple funny stories from his time in the war. As soon as he left in very sober tones my grandmother said, “That is the most I have ever heard him talk about the war.” And this was over 25 years after his military service had ended!
What I did learn from each of these men is the tremendous debt that we owe to our Armed Services volunteers. Every time I see a public protest, or see our non-violent election process, or even go to church on a Sunday morning, I recognize those as freedoms that have been protected for me by our armed services members. We have so many freedoms in this nation that are not shared by so many other places in this world. We had to fight to obtain those freedoms, and we must continue to fight at times to maintain those freedoms. We are so blessed to have young men and women willing to: sacrifice time with their families, experience long hours for low pay, and sometimes sacrifice their very lives so we can continue to enjoy the freedoms available to us.
Pictured below: Raymond Kelly and the medals he was awarded during World War II.
So, on Armed Services Day I hope we can all find a way to say “thank you” to these brave women and men who have given us so much. Send a letter or a care package. Buy their meal if you see a military family at a restaurant. Or just offer a simple “Thank you!” to any veteran or active duty soldier you see. They will squirm a little and maybe say they are just “doing their duty,” but we want them to know that their true sacrifice is recognized and appreciated!