In Honor of My Dad on Veteran’s Day

In 1954, on the anniversary of the ending of World War I, President Dwight D. Eisenhower proclaimed November 11, Veteran’s Day, so that we would pay special tribute to our military heroes.  As we take time this year to honor those who have served our country on 11/11/11, let us never forget that it’s easy to take liberty for granted, when you have never had it taken from you.  Our veterans dedication and bravery ensure our nation remains the home of the free because they’re our home of the brave. 

In composing my tribute to our military veterans and how we can help honor them, I had tears of pride for all our veterans and their families and for my own family history too.  My Mom’s brothers, Ben and Pete Gonzales both served in the Army during World War II.  Uncle Pete in Africa and Uncle Ben under General Patton in Germany.  My Dad’s brothers, Bill and Bob Merkle also served.  Uncle Billy with the Marines in Japan and Uncle Bobby with the Army in Korea.  My father-in-law Ed Lancaster served in the Coast Guard.  My brother-in-law Dave Lancaster flew Harrier Jets with the Marines over Iraq and my cousin John Merkle serves in the Army in Germany today.

And then there’s my Dad, Retired Master Sergeant Kenneth Merkle.  Dad served 26 years in the United States Army as a Cryptologic Linguist, or 98G for the awesome military personnel reading this right now.  He spent some of his Army career listening and translating what the Soviets were saying over the airwaves while we were stationed in West Berlin, Germany. Yes, they were called Soviets back then and he was my own James Bond, sans tuxedo and martini.  Dad has always been more of a single-malt Scotch man.

Dad had a successful career in linguistics taking us throughout Germany to various military bases with our “home” base at the Presidio of Monterey in California.  Upon retirement from the Army, he then began a second career as a civilian spanning another almost 20 years with the Department of Defense managing data systems until he retired a couple months ago.  My dad is the most brilliant man I know and while quiet in nature, leads a life filled with big love, big joy and big laughter thanks in part to the support of my mom, Grace, who’s been by his side since his graduation from Basic Training. 

Growing up the daughter of a career Army soldier, I had a most fortunate life.  Granted as a child, I didn’t think I was fortunate.  I disliked moving.  Immensely. After all, as a kid, it was all about me and leaving friend after friend to move yet again was no fun.  As every military family can relate, we moved a lot.  In fact, until my sweet sixteen, we moved 9 times between military bases stateside and in Germany.  Packing, unpacking, again and again while getting settled and having new teachers at new schools and making new friends.  All of this with no cell phones, internet, reality TV or instant information.  Things took time back then, we didn’t have much and I had no idea life was so damn good.

On this Veteran’s Day, as you thank our military for their service, thank their families too. You can help show your support and help our troops and their families this Veteran’s Day and every day by donating to any of the fantastic organizations below:

You can also send free e-greetings via Facebook pages for the U.S. Army, U.S. Navy, the U.S. Marines, the U.S. Air Force, and the U.S. Coast Guard. Always present for our troops is the USO, so check them out at on more ways to help our troops. There’s even a new U.S. Military Facebook page to bring “together resources and information to help the millions of military personnel, veterans and families stay connected and informed.” And of course, there’s an app for that! “A Nation Gives Thanks” app is available so we can thank active service members, veterans and their families for their service to our country too! Ch-ch-check it out!

So, thank you, Dad.  Thank you for joining the Army. Thank you for teaching me to honor faith,  family and country.  Thank you for taking me to countries with different cultures and religions and to see that life in the United States is truly the best in the world.  And thank you for teaching me to work hard, appreciate the life I have and to give back in our community.  Dad, it is your strength and honor, dedication and service, and your love that made me the woman I am today.

I am also grateful to the military for my life experiences and because of the internet, I’ve been able to reconnect with friends from my travels around the world.  Despite my “civilian” status today, I am and will forever be an Army brat.

Happy Veteran’s Day and thank you to all who have served our great nation.

Benjamin Franklin once said “Where liberty dwells, there is my country.”  My country is better because of every veteran.  Thank you and may God bless you, yours and America. Always.

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