My father and his cousins served our country during the Korean War. I watched the US Army field band play America the Beautiful on a morning news show and reflected on the pride my father expressed whenever he talked about his service during the 1950s. He never mentioned returning home to Jim Crow laws that threatened black men with lynching, his inability to vote and the lack of employment comparable to that of his white counterparts.
He was sanguine. Dad went to night school to improve his chances of finding gainful employment. I’ve heard repeatedly the bootstrap myths spoken as if they are the true reason minorities do not excel. You know the stories that minorities need to work harder to pull themselves out of lack and poverty by their bootstraps. African Americans had neither boot or straps. I often imagine how the people who speak these hurtful untruths and impose laws restrictive to certain groups would fare if they had been subjected to the same.
The limitations did not impede my father from using his GI Bill to purchase a beautiful home for our family in the 60s. He worked two jobs to afford a comfortable life and provide opportunities for my siblings and me. He never complained about having to work twice as hard to achieve the same lifestyle as his white co-workers. They were managers and supervisors. He was the laborer.
If dad were living today, he would salute the American flag and place his Korean War cap over his heartwhile the US Army field band played its tribute to those who served and are in service to this country. His devotion to America never wavered.
On January 6, 2021, I witnessed people who have been given so much desecrate the Capitol building erected by slaves. I saw a cohesive mindset to attack the democratic process to subvert the votes of the opposing party. The right to do so was and is granted by Americans who serve in the military at home and abroad.
Dad and the African American men who served with him are true patriots. If we promoted stories like Dad’s, maybe we could get to a place where people acted on the reality of black lives and not the lies that distort our contributions to this country.