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Family values from the veterans in my life.

In honor of Veterans Day I’d like to talk about family values instilled in my by several veterans in my life.

I grew up in a home with 4 brothers all of whom became eagles scouts. My family values were very much in line with the boy scouts. We were expected to keep ourselves:

* Physically fit – as a girl I played many sports from volleyball, to baseball (not softball my brother Martin and the boys in the neighborhood didn’t play softball), football, but my favorite thing even back then was swimming and surfing. I loved the water even as a young girl. I remember our TV activities were limited and we were encouraged to be active.

* Mentally awake – grades and effort in our education were of the utmost importance. My father taught us all the value of education. He and others of my tribe didn’t see full civil rights until 1968 with the ICRA (Indian Civil Rights Act) and he taught us that if not for education our people would still be unable to vote and would still be given separate and unequal education. We were taught to value the things this nation stood for and to be proud to be an American.

* Morally straight – My parents didn’t swear and to this day still don’t and we weren’t allowed to swear or behave in a manner that wasn’t morally straight while under their roof. While I’ve drifted from this some I still find myself not liking certain language and I don’t go out of my way to insult, bully or hurt others. I may not always ask things the way I intended them but I’ve never meant harm by them.

These the values instilled in me by my parents. I think they may be missing in much of todays’ youth. I was taught certain words are hurtful and are meant to insult others and to this day don’t use them. I often wonder why anyone uses language to demean others like the N word, Redskin or cracker. All of which are meant to hurt, belittle, degrade another human being. Are there others yes you bet Retard, Stupid, and many more like this. I guess it comes down to what my grandfather passed down. “If you need to degrade another to lift yourself then there is something wrong with you not them.” Wise words indeed from a man who has seen his share of being the one degraded. Before 1968 my relation saw themselves degraded by society, laws and the very nation in whose military they served with honor, pride and distinction.

As a decorated World War 2 and Korean war veteran who until 1968 was not able to vote. He has a positive outlook even to those who held him down. He doesn’t blame people because they are white and had privilege nor because they were part of a system that denied him his “Inalienable rights”. He and my father have always lived their lives with faith and a firm belief that indeed “all men are created equal”. My grandfather would say “I’ve seen every color of man and when they bleed it’s always red.” These words are very true we indeed all bleed the same when wounded. Below this thin layer known as skin there is no difference that can be seen. The only true difference is a man is the content of his character.

My father served in Southeast Asia, for those unfamiliar with the term that was vietnam before we admitted we were actually involved. He did this in part to make some money at a time when he was very young struggling and in doing so he avoided being drafted as well. He also served before he had a right to vote, the right to a speedy trial, protections from abuse, unlawful search and self-incrimination. A time before the ICRA of 1968. And at a shameful time for this nation where all men weren’t equal under the law.

My other grandfather also a world war 2 veteran and a marine who served in the pacific rim. A man who before he could vote and decades before the ICRA of 1968 served with distinction and honor. Being awarded the Purple Heart and several metals related to valor and distinctions of service. He would always tell me “Of all the things man holds dear his family is the only thing that can see him through the toughest times.” Indeed more wise advice from another great man.

I guess it’s important to have family and to hold them near in our moments of trial. I can’t imagine the horrors these men and women have seen in service to country and greater ideals of freedom. I can tell you the veterans in my life have instilled values I will cherish forever. Values I will oneday pass down to my children and I only hope to have the same wisdom as them. I must admit I haven’t handled myself with the same grace in light of discrimination either because I am Lakota or because I am deaf but I hold them as the example, the benchmark I must obtain. A higher ideal of tolerance, and fighting with peace. These men fought for their rights while never killing anyone nor promoting death to any to get them.

These men served their nation before the nation ever served them and did so with peace in their hearts and a deep love for the ideals this nation stands for. They know one day they would be heard in peace and true change would follow without words of hatred nor violence to obtain the precious right to be called an American. Seen as such fully and completely under the law. The things these men accomplished through peace out weighs anything accomplished by force. I have learned much from these men strong mind, strong body, values, morals, but one of the most important lesson. Peace is it’s own weapon and it’s more powerful than any gun.

It must have been hard for these men to serve a country which until 1968 still saw them as less than human. Yet they did it with distinction, grace and belief. To the veterans in my life and all the veterans like them thank you from the bottom of my heart.

My grandfather’s favorite sayings are.
“All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” Edmund Burke
It’s all about standing up when evil rises and letting it be known you will not stand silent and you will not allow evil to rule the day. Men and women of honor and courage like my grandfather’s saw evil and did something about it and evil was defeated.

I will leave you with a few words and some of my father’s favorites.
“In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends. The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” Martin Luther King Jr.
The true measure of a man is how he conducts himself during his trials, how he handles adversity and hatred. Does he repeat the hatred or does he grow from it and become the example of how to stamp it out forever. He will know his friends by those who stand with him during these times and those who pretend to be friends by remaining silent.

Wise men of honor and worthy of my praise.

~Michelle Styles, November 11, 2013