Baumhower: Military Yearbook 2013Written by Jeremy Baumhower | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Last July, Editor in Chief Michael S. Miller and Toledo Free Press demonstrated trust in me and executed a vision I had.
The original Military Yearbook concept evolved from my review of those local mug shot magazines, “publications” that exploit personal problems for monetary gains. When I heard about the commercial success those rags generate, I wanted to show the power of print, but I wanted to do so in a positive way.
Instead of showcasing thugs with rap sheets, why not honor those who deserve it most, the men and women of the Armed Forces? My goal for the Military Yearbook was to create a keepsake for and a thank you to all those families who make sacrifices. I have never been so proud to have my name published on a piece of paper as I am with this.
“The Army would make you dig a hole 6 feet deep, and then have you fill it,” is one of the recurring stories I was told by my grandfather, Merlin “Pete” Zunk. He used the story as my introduction into the workforce. I was to do what I was told, the boss is your boss and you follow orders — a lesson I have yet to learn.
I did not serve in the military. My grandfather is the closest relative I have who has. In 1953, on his 20th birthday, he received his draft notice and eventually became a corporal in the infantry. His sacrifices included leaving his bride of 160 days for two years and missing the birth of his first child, finally meeting her 15 months later. My Aunt Cindy turned 60 this year.
His years abroad were spent in Germany, although thankfully not during war. Pete would write countless postcards to my Grandma JoAnn that would take months to arrive. She would answer him every time with updates about their newborn daughter, his family and their friends.
To put this into perspective: How many times are you annoyed when you send a text to your significant other and do not get an immediate response? My grandparents’ “text messages” took weeks to deliver and weeks for a response. They’ve been married for 60 years. Somewhere there is a lesson in that.
The only other things I know about Pete’s time in the service are that he never fired his weapon with intent to kill and somehow the government never paid him the proper amount for his duty overseas. He has always stated he was paid cash monthly while abroad and because his last named started with the letter “Z,” he never received what was promised, but got paid whatever was left. However, Pete is one of the lucky ones. He came home.
My written voice reflects the product of my grandpa’s sacrifice. From the time I was a child there has always been an ongoing conversation about war, politics and civic duties during his visits. From unions to race to Toledo politics, no topic was ever forbidden, no opinion ever spared. Pete’s time in the Army gave him a strong voice, one he earned. These conversations have taught me to not just have an opinion, but a passionate belief. Pete has been the best lifelong political adviser and teacher I never asked for.
My grandfather spent his entire 21st year abroad, marching and digging holes, all in the name of service to our country. During that time, with a shovel in his hand, he discovered how important family is. Every step he marched and each scoop of dirt he removed brought him closer to home. I have never once thanked him for his service; it has just never come up. He doesn’t walk in parades, doesn’t hang out at the VFW and there are no pictures of him in uniform hanging on his walls. He did what he was asked to do, kept his mouth shut and continued with his life.
Yet without his two years of sacrifice, this column would never have happened and I would be a much different person. He has demonstrated every day of my life what it takes to be a man and how to love your family.
Every name and face featured in this Military Yearbook has a story and a sacrifice behind it. I would encourage every reader to learn about at least one. There is so much knowledge and so many life lessons to be gained by engaging those who have served our country.
To each and every one of you who has served this great nation, may I send my deepest thanks.
To my grandfather Pete: Thank you for your service. You and your service gave me my voice.
Happy Fourth of July!
Follow Jeremy Baumhower on Twitter @jeremytheproduc.
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