My Educator's Memorial Day (Steve Guditus @sguditus)

My Dad
Ever since I was a kid, I looked up to my Dad.  A Vietnam War and Marine Corps Veteran, he enlisted in the USMC after graduating from high school.  Fearless and eighteen, he headed to Paris Island for training and ultimately for multiple tours of duty in Vietnam.  Though I don't know many of the details (he rarely speaks about it), I know he was brave and served his nation proudly.  He earned a purple heart, and even as I write about it, I get teary.  I will probably never know why exactly, but a combination of pride and honor comes over me when I think of the moves my Dad needed to make as a young man.

My Dad is a driven man.  He is dyslexic, so school was always tough for him.  I am even more in awe that he has been a successful businessman through intelligence, drive, dedication and a work ethic like no one I've ever seen.  He encouraged me and pushed me to always be my best, and when I slacked off, I would imagine my Dad - waist deep in a swamp in Vietnam - and push harder.  As I was concluding my college career - my folks made sure my sister and I were four-year college grads, as they had not been - I seriously considered enlisting in the military.  I felt a combination of guilt, of ambition and of obligation to do my duty, as my Dad had done.  He and my Mom had encouraged me and helped me become a successful student, and I felt it was time to pay my two cents towards my nation.

After receiving my acceptance to graduate school, I shared my alternate plans with Dad.  He shared with me something I'll never forget: duty is about giving back, and it can come in many, many forms.  Dad told me that he had chosen to enlist in the Marine Corps, and as a result went to war - not once, but twice, and nearly died in the process - and that was his duty, and his need to find his path.  He told me that he and my Mom had worked hard to support my sister and me, encourage us to be our best, help us find our path, and to seek an education to better ourselves, in a way they had not been able to do.  He gave back to his country by going to war, and he did not want that for me.  Continuing to feel a sense of obligation, my Dad shared with me that he and my Mom worked hard to make sure that my sister and I could give back and pay our duty to our nation, but by helping others through public service and educating the youth of our nation.  Yes, his duty was different, but my Dad made me realize that paying back our nation can come in many ways.

On days like today - Memorial Day - I honor the men and women who lost their lives defending our freedom; they paid the ultimate price for our nation.  To them I say: thank you for all you did so we can live in a land of freedom and liberty.  Your honor and memory will not be forgotten.

Thanks to my Dad, and so many other veterans, we have an army of educators who have helped mold the lives of the youth of America and help maximize (and expand) the potential of millions of youth.  When I go back to school tomorrow, I will keep in mind the precious lives and potential that is under my watch.  Because of the bravery of so many men and women, I am able to make this my duty to my nation.  I vow to put forth my best effort to maximize and expand the potential of my students - to make my Dad proud and to do my duty for our nation.

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