"When dawn spreads its paintbrush on the plain, spilling purple... ," Sons of the Pioneers theme for TV show "Wagon Train." Dawn on the mythic Santa Fe Trail, New Mexico, looking toward Raton from Cimarron. -- Clarkphoto. A curmudgeon artist's musings melding metaphors and journalism, for readers in more than 150 countries.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

My heritage of veterans in three countries

Do you have favorite veterans in your family, in your life?
I started out to write simply about my two favorite veterans, but the more I thought, and looked at photos and memories, the harder and more emotional it became. 
I come from a long heritage of veterans from three countries. 
My favorite veteran, M/Sgt. Vance Clark, USAF
Two years ago I sat in the Albuquerque airport, sketching the Manzano mountains, a day after burying my favorite uncle and one of my favorite veterans, Mike, in the Santa Fe National Cemetery. Search this blog for veterans or Mike, and you'll find numerous posts over the past few years.
But he's not my favorite of course. First-born son, M/Sgt. Vance C. Clark, USAF, holds that rank. There's no way I can put in words how proud I am of him, of his patriotism and loyalty.
And I have known many veterans as other relatives and friends in my life, including many former students. If I try to list them all, I'll leave some out, but they have been blessings to me, not necessarily for their service, but for just who they are. But some have to be mentioned, and every time I think of one, another name comes up. 
Stop and think about how entwined veterans lives are with this country, with our lives. I won't use the overused word "hero" to describe them, because most would decline the term. But it is appropriate to honor them today and tomorrow for what they mean to all of us, in so many ways.
Cdr. Steve Curry, USN
I'd have to add Col. Charles Fleming, USMC, who was a colleague at OSU, and helped me earn my doctoral degree. He's since paid the price for Agent Orange, but I so remember having to celebrate the Marines birthday every year. 
I've been blessed with many former students who were veterans. They are more mature and focused on their studies that most students. They don't gloat nor wave the flag, and in fact, if the enrollment sheet didn't specify "veteran," you wouldn't know it in most cases.
 Near the top would be Commander Steve Curry, US Navy, a former student who has remained a good friend, and two years ago booked me on the USS Abe Lincoln for a Tiger Cruise. More recently there has been Andy Jensen, who shares Ray Bradbury and a love of reading and writing. There have been many more. 
Petty Officer 2 Mike Clark, Grandmother, Dad
Uncle Mike was my Dad's favorite brother, hence my middle name.  But two other brothers served, Rex and Champ in the US Army. Dad didn't serve of course, having lost his leg jumping a freight train in 1932, but he spent much of his life drawing portraits of veterans.
I know from genealogy work from Vance, Dad, and my aunt Vera "Sissie" Culp that my ancestors served in The Revolution, War of 1812, Mexican War and Spanish American War. Not sure of WWI.
CSA grave, Vicksburg
And I can't conclude without honoring those ancestors of mine who served in two other countries, the Republic of Texas, and the Confederate States of America.
They're in my blood.
It's little wonder that I am drawn to the POW/MIA flags, and to the veterans' gravestones in cemeteries, or my affection for wandering down the ranks of graves in national cemeteries, whether at Santa Fe, Arlington, Gettysburg, Vicksburg, Fort Smith, and elsewhere.
Join me and snap a salute to your veterans, past, present, and for the future.
First day of school duty

Final port of call, Santa Fe
Eternal duty, Vicksburg National Cemetery

1 comment:

  1. Sir, Vance was in my Tech School (F-15) class... If you would, please, would like his contact info, or at least give him mine. bmentzel6 at aol dot com. I appreciate your help, sir!


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