My grandfather, Major Paul L. Bark, entered the U.S. Army after graduating from Virginia Military Institute in 1956. He served three tours in the Vietnam War and was wounded during his last stint. He retired from the U.S. Army in 1974 and then went on to teach U.S. History at a Catholic high school until he fully entered the retired life in 1990.
When I was growing up, Veterans were not celebrated the way they are today. It wasn’t until I got older that I started to hear and see stories about the way the military men and women were treated when they came home from the Vietnam War.
My grandfather seldom talked about his time in the war, just brief tidbits here and there. It’s not that he wasn’t a man of few words — I don’t think he ever met a stranger — but once I learned about some of the cruel ways our veterans were treated, it started to make sense to me.
He was a very proud man and probably would’ve kept going if he wasn’t injured. My grandmother was the traditional picture of a military wife, and they had three children together. They traveled the world and were stationed at different military bases. My father was born in Germany in 1962.
You hear stories about families following each other from base to base, and that was no different for them. My grandparents had a group of families that they moved around with.
Even after retirement, they all bought vacation homes together in the same Florida neighborhood, to spend half of the year together.
As he got older and his health start to fail, he never lost sight of who he was or his love for his country. In September 2015, we traveled as a family to Whidbey Island, WA, just outside of Seattle, to see my brother’s pinning ceremony for his promotion to chief petty officer in the U.S. Navy.
We knew my grandfather was fading fast, but there was nothing short of a grave that would stop him from getting to that ceremony and pinning my brother. It was a truly special sight to see all of the servicemen and women saluting my grandfather and people thanking him for his service. I will always be grateful that he finally received the recognition and thanks for what he did for our country in the Vietnam War.
To say that this trip was a miracle is a true understatement, as he would pass away a week later. We knew his time with us was winding down, and seeing him on that stage, pinning my brother with his new military ranks, was his last duty on this earth. And that is exactly how he wanted it.
City of Seguin Mayor Don Keil signed a proclamation last month declaring November as Military Appreciation Month, and that makes me proud to be a member of this community.
Our veterans should be celebrated for an entire month and deserve all of our thanks and praise. Most of us have someone we know or love that has served in the military. When you see someone wearing a hat or jacket with their service information, take a quick second to thank them for their service. It may seem very little to you, but it means the world to them, especially in this day and age.
From my family to yours, thank you to all of the servicemen and women who have served or are currently serving in the military. Thank you for protecting our country and our freedom.