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Old Pueblo Abuelo: Veterans Day means more than one day

My father, Hector A. Morales, Jr. He was 16 here. (Family Photo)

This is the 18th installment of “Old Pueblo Abuelo,” a Sunday night thought on positive things happening in the Old Pueblo from a sometimes cranky and often times humorous grandfather actually born in Tucson and writing from my desk in Tucson.

Veterans Day was last Thursday and it’s a day typically filled with lots of understandable emotions. Most of us know a military veteran of some sort and we also use the day to think about those no longer with us, like my late father. It should be more than a day.

I’ve told this story many times before but it’s an important one that should not be forgotten because it describes a time where some men were sent off to war while others were sent off to college. Today, that choice is made more freely without the threat of a draft or without pressure but it wasn’t always that way.

Joining the military is an honorable choice and one that should be respected and I’ll touch on that later but the process of sending young men away was not always honorable. My father graduated from Tucson High at the age of 16. In today’s world, a respectable guidance counselor would find multiple paths and academic avenues to reward an obviously gifted student but, in 1950, respectable behavior was hard to come by. My father was sent to Korea instead.

He never regretted joining the Marines at the age of 16, although the military moved him over to the Air Force because of his young age. He survived and he lived a long and very rewarding and productive life. He never got that college scholarship but he eventually made it to the Tucson city council and to Washington, DC to work for two presidents.

I know changing one thing in his past could mean changing everything in his future. I wouldn’t be here had he went off to college instead. Who knows?

More “Old Pueblo Abuelo” can be found here.

But we also have servicemen and women who will never come back. The idea that more “liberal” households are less patriotic is hilarious. Anyone who sees a political party on the battle field instead of heroes have no idea about much of anything. I have no idea what it’s like on those fields but I honor those who do know, including their families, because it’s their sacrifice that kept me, and countless others, free from having to see with our own eyes what they often say they are trying to forget.

Memorial Day is a more specific holiday for remembering those who gave the ultimate sacrifice but that is also just one day. It’s not enough. We go about our daily lives without thinking about the sacrifices that allow us to do what we do and that ignorance is also a gift because our freedoms are more enjoyable when they are lived free from thought.

But, somewhere, there is a mother going about her day who might never be free from the thought of her child who gave his or her life in war. I know there are times when life might bring her a smile or two but there must be times when life rolls in like a storm cloud. We owe those moms a huge debt but it’s a debt that can never really be repaid.

We make small payments on the debt that can never be repaid by living our life in a respectable way. By making good choices with our freedoms. By remembering others for more than one day. By providing comfort to those who seek it and to those who don’t know how to ask for it.

I still have his cap.

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Andy Morales was recognized by the AIA as the top high school reporter in 2014, he was awarded the Ray McNally Award in 2017, a 2019 AZ Education News award winner and he has been a youth, high school and college coach for over 30 years. He was the first in Arizona to write about high school beach volleyball and high school girls wrestling. His own children have won multiple state high school championships and were named to all-state teams. Competing in hockey, basketball, baseball and track & field in high school, his unique perspective can only be found here and on AZPreps365.com. Andy is the Southern Arizona voting member of the Ed Doherty Award, recognizing the top football player in Arizona, and he was named a Local Hero by the Tucson Weekly for 2016. Andy was named an Honorary Flowing Wells Caballero in 2019, became a member of the Sunnyside Los Mezquites Cross Country Hall of Fame in 2021 and he was a member of the Amphi COVID-19 Blue Ribbon Committee and he earned a Distinguished Service Award from Amphitheater. Contact Andy Morales at amoralesmytucson@yahoo.com

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