Veteran's Day Salute
I want to offer kudos to all the brave troops, active and reserve, enlisted and commissioned, volunteer and former draftees, current and retired or deceased.
I want to thank my dad for his 21-plus years of active duty service in the U.S. Navy. Kudos to you CPO (ret.) James H. Burnett Jr.
I want to thank my late grandfather James H. Burnett Sr., a Purple Heart recipient, for his service in the U.S. Army in World War II.
I want to thank all of yous, as my good friends in parts of NYC would say, for being willing to lay down your lives in service to your country. And if you have any doubts about that willingness, keep in mind that our military today is all volunteer.
And on an even more personal level I want to thank the few living members of the Tuskegee Airmen, that legendary group of African American aviators who volunteered for military service during World War II, trained as fighter pilots, and flew dozens of successful missions in that war.
Some of you get squirrelly and uncomfortable when I bring up things even remotely related to race and ethnicity.
Here's a bit of reality: While I am grateful to everyone who has ever served honorably in a branch of the military, I have a special love for the men from Tuskegee, because they didn't just volunteer for service and volunteer for a dangerous job. They did it knowing full well that many powerful lawmakers, military commanders, and even their peers doubted their ability, questioned their patriotism, vocally wished them failure (even though their failure would have been to the detriment of the American war effort), and said in so many words that their service wasn't wanted, at least in such a high profile capacity.
On those rare occasions I thrust race at you, it isn't to cause anyone discomfort. It's to give you some clue to my early motivations and to remind us all that even the most apparently polished history has some fractures. And we should learn from the blemishes, not ignore them.
When you are a kid and you see your own father get up day in and day out and put on his crisply starched uniform and go to work, and on those rare but glorious occasions when you got to accompany him and you saw other men snap to and raise their hands to salute him for his rank and respect, and you knew that a crew like the Tuskegee Airman had existed and thrived, those collective images are enough to convince you the little boy that when you are grown you too can contribute and succeed, regardless of what you look like.
Again, kudos to all, and prayers to those currently in military service.And regardless of where you stand on current events, don't get it twisted. Even if you are unhappy with the war - and I really don't care whether you're for it or again' it - don't be unhappy with the troops. They're just doing their jobs.