Fair Winds and Following Seas

A Veteran died today.  I did not know him well, but I liked him.  And I respected him.

He was not a hero in the traditional sense.  He enlisted in the Navy between wars.  He served at a comfortable post and performed a job that some arrogant Veterans might have kidded him about.  He was proud of his service, but it didn’t define him.

After he took off his uniform he went back to school.  He became a respected teacher at a local high school.  He married a kind woman and together they raised a family.  Their kids have grown and become successful.

He was a respected member of his community.  He belonged to a church and was considerate to his neighbors.  Kids loved being around him because of his gentle and patient spirit.

The only battle he ever fought was against the skunks who looted his garden and the insects who infested his orchard.  I am confident he would admit that he made a better citizen than sailor.  And that’s why I respect him.

The way he lived offers a lesson to my generation of Veterans.  Our service should not define us.  It should only be a single chapter in our biography.  Once the uniform is off, embrace the next great challenge.  Make a difference in your community and be the sort of neighbor who is missed.  Become an outstanding citizen.

Fair winds and following seas, sir.  Thank you for your service to this nation, both in and out of uniform.

Clifford M. Gray

About Clifford M. Gray

I grew up in Enfield and moved to the Bangor area in junior high. I enlisted in the US Air Force Immediately after graduating from Hampden Academy. During my 20-year career I served in intelligence, command & control, and the Air Force's history and museum program. Following my retirement I completed my undergraduate at California State University, Chico, with a BA in History and Social Science. I returned to Maine last year to attend graduate school. I currently work as a veteran advocate in the area of peer support.