This past Memorial Day weighed heavily on my mind in more ways than one. Therefore, I look back over the years to appreciate where I came from and where I am going. At the same time, I am looking back at my country and where it came from and where it is headed.
As a baby boomer out of the 1940s, I am on the leading edge of the largest population boom this country ever encountered. I am also part of the largest group of people facing medical challenges and death in the next 10 to 15 years.
More than anything, I am the son of a U.S. Marine. My dad, M/Sgt. Howard Wooldridge, served in WWII in the South Pacific and in Korea. He died in service to the United States of America. As a quick aside, my brother John Wooldridge also served in the United States Air Force during Desert Storm and also in the U.S. Army. He died at 50 last February and was buried with honors and a 21 gun salute.
As a kid, I wore a red with yellow letter T-shirt that read, “My daddy is a Marine!”
My dad forged me. He molded me. He taught me athletics. He gave me a never-ever-give-up attitude in sports and life. He encouraged me to work my brain first in school and then, pursue sports. He stamped me with the indelible responsibility to honor my country, respect my mother, adhere to God and contribute to America as an upstanding citizen.
In February, I paid my last respects to my brother John, but also, walked several feet over to my father’s grave. In the 47 years since my dad’s death, the pain has not diminished. It has subsided, but it still lingers in my heart. I knelt down at my dad’s grave stone and thanked him for every moment he spent with me on the sports field. I thanked him for every camping trip. I appreciated his helping me with my homework. I deeply thanked him for making me an honest man where integrity comes first and personal discipline created and defined my life. As I knelt by his grave, I thanked him for treating my mother with kindness, respect and tenderness. She’s nearly 90 now and suffered loneliness and now, she has lost her youngest son, too.
On this past Memorial Day weekend, I hope a lot of Americans thanked their fathers and mothers for the trials and tribulations born of past wars, hard times and difficult challenges. I know for me, when I see the American flag, it represents one of the most amazing countries on this planet where the “little guy” can grow big, dream big and become anything he or she dreams of becoming.
While I am not thrilled with our past four presidents, their antics, their sexual peccadilloes, their lack of character, lack of integrity and other short comings—I am proud of my dad. While I loathe the past four U.S. Congresses for their chicanery, lack of vision and outright fraud against the American people—I am proud of my dad. While I am dismayed that our current president appears to have scammed his way into the White House with a false birth certificate, false selective service card and false social security card along with false academic credentials—I am proud of my dad. The current president of the United States wouldn’t know a platoon formation from K.P. duty—yet, I am proud of my dad.
As I look out across the American landscape, I see we have stumbled on what it means to be Americans. When I look across this great country, I see 7 out of 10 Americans walking around with an extra 20, 30 to 100 pounds. I see 50 percent not voting in national elections and 90 percent not voting in local elections. I see a $14 trillion national debt brought to us by our U.S. Congress—a body full of cronies and disingenuous liars. I see more people living on welfare every year rather than working. I see a loss of personal accountability and personal responsibility when 68 percent of African-American children are born to single mothers—on welfare. You can add 34 percent of Hispanics and 24 percent of Whites.
I see that 42 million Americans cannot read, write or perform simple mathematical calculations—but 43 million Americans know how to utilize food stamps. (Source: Reuters News Service, and American Reading Foundation) At the same time, 7,000 kids drop out of high school every day in America. I see a lot of tattoos, (stupid stamps), but not a lot of critical thinking. I can’t help but wonder where those kids think they are going. Answer: nowhere! In my world travels, I have found that “illiteracy” defines the misery of the third world and those American kids will define America in the next few decades. I see an enormous “entrenched poverty class” developing in America—that relies solely on handouts from those of us that take our citizenship seriously.
I see most of everything sold in K-Mart, Target, Kohl’s, Home Depot, Lowes, Sears and countless other American stores all made in China, Pakistan or Mexico—while we suffer 14 million out of work Americans.
So what did my father fight for and what did he preserve as a U.S. Marine? How do all the veterans of our armed forces think about what has happened to America? What will become of our country now that we feature hyphenated-Americans, terrorists within our own citizens and growing loss of direction for our country?
Answer: I do not know. I don’t see how we will dig our way out of our debt, our energy crisis, our overpopulation crisis, our destruction of our biosphere, our resource depletion predicament and the degradation of our environment.
All I know is that my daddy was a U.S. Marine and I am going to make him proud until my last breath on this planet. I am going to continue engaging, speaking out, working and voting toward a better United States of America. My father would expect no less from his sons.