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On the Fourth of July, I shared this reflection with my family and friends. It is a reflection of how I felt as a son, as a father, and as an American this Independence Day. Now I’m sharing it with my extended family and friends at Operation Gratitude.
July 4, 2020 — Today we celebrate 89,121 days of America’s Independence. For each of those days, 20 service members have fought and died in battle to preserve the freedoms we enjoy as Americans — more than 1,789,000 in total have paid the ultimate sacrifice. Each day we lose 22 more of our nation’s veterans to suicide, many of them suffering from depression, PTSD, and other invisible wounds of war. I served alongside some of those fallen heroes, men and women from all walks of life, to include one of my closest friends, Lieutenant Colonel Kevin Shea. I will never forget them or what they fought and died for — never.
Thirty-one years ago I took an oath. I will never forget that day either. My Dad read the words and I repeated them. Our right hands were raised. I stood before him in Dress Blues carrying the same Mameluke Sword that he carried more than two decades earlier. To my left was my mother and to my right was Major Joe Dunford, who would later become the 19th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff — the flags of the United States and the Marine Corps stood behind us.
“I, Kevin Schmiegel, do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter.
So help me God.”
As we neared the end of the oath, my father’s voice cracked and he wept with pride. I smiled and hugged him, not quite understanding the overwhelming emotions he felt in that moment.
Twenty-five years later I would, as I sat with thousands of other parents like me who were watching their sons and daughters become United States Marines. It was easy for me to spot my son, Karl, as he raised his right hand and repeated the same words, “I solemnly swear that I will support and defend.” I said them inside my head with PFC Schmiegel, and as we neared the end of the oath, I got choked up — tears of pride streamed down my face. As I hugged him on the parade deck at Parris Island, I remembered all of the moves he endured with his two brothers as a military kid, all the new schools and new friends, all of the nights I spent away from him. Yet he still made the decision to serve our country.
At that moment I wondered why. I thought of all the times I came back from deployments and told him how lucky we are to be Americans and how special our country is. Maybe he remembered the stories I told him about kids his age playing soccer barefoot in the snow in Afghanistan and on the sandy beaches of Kenya, or what it was like to see the faces of people lining up 4 or 5 deep at a bus stop in Nigeria reading a newspaper over the shoulder of the one person who could afford it. Maybe when he heard what I saw — the oppression, the poverty, the sadness — in the more than 50 countries I’ve visited, it stuck with him.
I do know one thing, like his grandfather and like his father, Karl swore an oath to support and defend all of the people and all of the things that make the United States of America the greatest country in the world.
Today I’m celebrating the home of the free and the brave, and all of the people and things that make America so special. I’m proud to be an American, and I’m proud that I have an opportunity every day to live — in a different way — the same oath that I pledged 31 years ago. When I wake up tomorrow and the day after, that will not change. I will take action to support those who defend our freedom and our nation with honor, courage, and commitment. I hope you will, too.
Happy Independence Day!
Fittingly, on this year’s 4th of July, more than 18,500 doctors and nurses in three hospital networks in Philadelphia received jumbo care packages containing tens of thousands of individual items and handwritten letters of appreciation. With your help, we lifted their spirits on a day they probably needed it most. I hope you know how much I appreciate your taking action with us to support those who defend our freedom every day.
On that note, I’m asking you to take action again to help us fill an immediate need. As we gear up to assemble and deliver 5,000 individually addressed Care Packages to Deployed Troops around the world at the end of July, our goal is to send each of them the item they ask for the most – beef jerky!! To support those who defend us and our great nation go to our Amazon Wish List today and click on the beef jerky image to order. Buy one and you give a treat from home to 12 Deployed Service Members.
Thank you for doing your part in making deliveries like these possible and for your continued support of Operation Gratitude.
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