On Veteran’s Day, we reflect and honor all of the men and women who selflessly served in the military to protect our country. I have been thinking about that a lot lately, as my 17-year-old grandson, Mack, has decided to enlist in the U.S. Marine Corps after he graduates from high school next spring. It is a decision he made completely on his own, without telling his parents. His mom isn’t entirely on board with it; but he will be 18 in December and it is his choice. He will leave for boot camp in July.
Mack will represent the fourth generation in our family to serve in the military. My grandfather, Carroll Luther Hann, served during World War I. My father, James Dennison and my uncle (my mother’s brother) Carroll Richard (Dick) Hann served during World War II and my brother, Joseph Dennison, served in the U.S. Navy during the Vietnam War. My Uncle Dick passed away in December 2020 at age 95. His grandson, Ryan Minor, a writer and editor in chief for a Maryland political blog, wrote a story about his beloved grandfather after he died. I was surprised to learn from the story that Uncle Dick had attempted to enlist with the U.S. Marine Corps when he was 17 years old. He did not become a Marine, but instead enlisted at 18 as a soldier in “General Patton’s Army.”
Ryans story went on to say that his grandfather was stationed with Company E, 2nd Battalion, 358th Engineering Regiment. During the war, his responsibility was deactivating landmines – a job reserved for only the Army’s bravest.
Ryan also said his grandfather seldom spoke of the atrocities he saw while fighting totalitarianism, even to his family, and that was the only time Ryan saw his grandfather shed tears. My father would never talk about his experience as a ball-turret gunner during World War II. My siblings and I only learned what he went through after he passed away and we found carefully preserved medals and badges, including the Distinguished Service Cross and Air Medal. We read about his missions that were documented in his Royal Air Force (RAF) book, including one when he had to parachute out of a plane over France. My brother Joe always says his experience during the Vietnam War can’t be compared to our father’s. I remember Joe sharing photos of helicopters being tossed from a ship into the ocean to make room for Vietnamese refugees they brought to the U.S.
This year, Veteran’s Day will have a new meaning for me. I will think about Mack and his upcoming venture with the U.S. Marine Corp. While I worry about the decision he has made at such a young age, I am also proud that he is following in the footsteps of three generations of men who chose to serve their country: his great-great-great-grandfather, great-great-grandfather, great-great-uncle and great-uncle. And to Mack, becoming a Marine is an honorable thing to do.