I've known plenty of vets in my life. I'm pleased that I still call many I was in the service with my friends. However, I'm particularly grateful for that line of men who served that I call family. It's taken me years to understand how much those men and their experiences shaped me, particularly as a youth.
I'm grateful for my great uncle, the doughboy, who was wounded by a German artillery shell shortly after the armistice was signed ending WWI.
I'm grateful for my father-in-law, Walt, who fought as a scout in the jungles of the Philippines against a desperate Imperial Japanese army.
I'm grateful for my Uncle Jimmy wounded during combat as a tank commander in WWII.
I'm grateful for my Cousin Jimmy. Two combat tours of Vietnam onboard the U.S.S. Coral Sea.
Then there's my Cousin Jack. Infantry, Special Forces, Delta. Vietnam, Iran, Panama and more. Retired as a Command Sergeant Major. But my guess is he's still serving. Someday, they'll write a book about the things that man has done for his country.
I'm grateful for my maternal Uncles, Charlie und Fritz. They served in the German military during WWII but are to this day among the sweetest memories I have for how they treated me as a young boy.
I'm grateful for my brother Mark's service and the things he does to this day in service to his country.
I'm also very grateful for my dad, Ernesto. He lied about his age to enlist in WWII. He was caught and sent home. But as soon as he was legal, he enlisted. Pa joined the Army and then transferred to the newly created U.S. Air Force in 1947. Because of him, I grew up with fighter jets as part of the sound track of my youth. I got to see Europe's great battlefields and learned the stories of the men who were there. He explained to me the cost of freedom as we watched Soviet tanks roll into Czechoslovakia to crush the yearning for liberty in 1968.
However, today I'm mostly proud of my son, A1C Drew Alvarez. Like everyone one of us in this line, he volunteered. And like everyone of us, he will be very good at what his country asks him to do.