While most of my recent blogs have been pointed towards a real estate career, there’s something about the period around Memorial Day that is both personal and military enough to discuss appropriately. I will add that 6 stitches and a quantity of facial scrapes from a bicycling accident on Saturday might’ve made me look like I’d been in a battle, but if I won’t forget that small disaster soon, it’s not going to be something held dear as a capping event to a 21st anniversary in Charlotte.
Returning to upstate New York this week for the wedding of my nephew, Captain Curtiss Shorkey, and his terrific bride, 1Lt. Stephanie Whiteman (USAF), allows for a lot of contemplation. My recent career move into real estate is miles different from their paths: Stephanie is an A-1 ‘military brat’ and specialist with AWACs surveillance, and Curtiss wanted to be a Blackhawk pilot for a long, long time. He was an upset 5-year old when I rolled down the driveway in Ballston Spa for Charlotte; at twenty-six he’s obviously a mature Man now, a respected and well-liked leader of others. He’ll wear his bars and the title of Husband equally well.
Thoughts of that DFN (Damn Fine Nephew—the military loves acronyms, I’m willing to oblige):
- Curtiss and I advancing through the woods for paintball during an end of school year fun day. I looked ahead for a second or two, and when I turned back, I had NO IDEA where he’d disappeared to. In a later pilot evasion exercise, he apparently exhibited the same ability; he admits his small crew kind of let themselves get captured near the end “because they (searchers) get really pissed if they don’t find you.”
- His graduation from Embry Riddle (top of class, which he’s essentially done at all levels), when I asked him the difference between wanting to go to West Point and doing college ROTC. “If I was graduating from West Point I’d be an engineer, but right now I’m a pilot, and that’s what I always wanted to be.” That’s what they mean about clarity and goal orientation.
- The actual last lines my Dad wrote in the journal I’d given him, about Curtiss showing them around when they met at his training base, that “Curtiss seems to like this life, and if he wants to serve his country, we can’t have too many good leaders.”
Dad and his brothers all served: Dad and Harold were Navy men, Uncle Donny in the Air Force, Howard was a Marine during the Pacific island-hopping of WWII. None of my brothers or I ever had the call, although I’ll state without a lot of soul-searching that Vietnam being overrun my senior year of high school (1975) and being spared from that meat grinder wasn’t the worst thing that could’ve happened to me.
For what it’s worth, I take the opportunity to thank veterans for their service frequently. I read Tom Brokaw’s ‘The Greatest Generation’ and yes, surviving the recession and that bike accident is extremely small potatoes compared to what Dad’s quickly disappearing generation went through. For at least this week though, I salute the commitment that two very specific people, Curtiss and Stephanie, have made to each other and their country.
I also expect to bust my brothers chops one more time at the rehearsal dinner (with the expected usual response) about how Curt apparently was building skill levels vs. just wasting time doing video games in high school, because monitoring allll those dials and factors on a screen was clearly essential career training for the helicopter pilot he became.