Happy Military Appreciation Month- I didn’t get back in time to post this last night and it was important to me that I included this family in my efforts. So, it is a day late but well worth the wait. Today I am recognizing the Jarrell clan. Jay (‘58-‘61) and Shirley Jarrell (’59-61) both served in the US Army, Their son Mike served in the US Marines (’83-87) and Mike’s son Jacob is currently serving in the US Army.
Jay and Shirley were both from the mountains of West Virginia. They grew up in an area where few career options outside of the coalmines were available. The region was poor, few went on to college and most settled in to a life of hard work in a dark hole. Jay joined the Army in 1958, and his girlfriend Shirley followed a year later when she turned 18. When we were discussing their service last night, Shirley reminded me she would have joined regardless. It was the fastest ticket out of West Virginia, away from overly strict parents (and no opportunities for a bright young woman.) Jay and Shirley served in the Army, leaving West Virginia behind them and settled into Illinois. Jay was a Construction Engineer in the Army. After his service, Jay joined the post office where he worked as a letter carrier until retirement- never a man to be idle, he later also worked at Jewel until he retired there as well. Jay and I spent years sparring over politics- to say we are on opposite sides of the aisle would be kind. Jay’s general retort to me was that I was a Liberal Commie. It was delivered in a playful and loving way and made me feel heard. It’s still makes me smile, every time I think of it. He asked last night what I teach and I jokingly told him Communism, (I teach business) and he just smiled and said, “That’s good. They teach everything else.” He was recently recognized for 50 years of membership to the Postal union- I laughingly asked how they let him in. That is just how we roll, loving respect and disagreement.
Shirley was a woman born 3 decades too early. The world was not ready for the likes of Shirley. Beautiful, Bold and Brilliant, the Hills of West Virginia were too small for her from the get go. Early childhood experiences with the lack of options for healthcare would shape her life and her advocacy. She joined the Army and became a Field Medic. I always thought if the world were different Shirley would have been a terrific Doctor. She let go of her wish of becoming a nurse to take on the obligations of a young family- but was beaming with pride when her daughter graduated from nursing school. When Shirley returned to the work, it was always on the edges of the medical profession- home health care management or career placement for a Pharmaceutical company. Shirley was the most medically knowledgeable person I have ever met outside of the medical field. Truly Amazing.
Jay and Shirley were my second parents when I was growing up- the Jarrrell house was my refuge when my large family got too …. Too loud, too complicated, too big , just too much. Being able to be around a family with one daughter was like a science experiment for someone who was one of seven females sharing a single bathroom and single telephone. My childhood memories from 4 grade to marriage are in equal parts the Vasseur household and the Jarrell household. I am deeply blessed and forever thankful for their willingness to take me into their lives. So, in some respects, I grew up with Mike. We fought like sibling. I locked Mike in the shed once- Hilarious until he practically tore the shed apart. (Who am I kidding, still hilarious.) Mike wasn’t sure what to do with his life when he was a teen. He was directionless and looking at the potential to travel a bad path. His friends, (who in some regards were my friends) were schmucks. Blessed was the day that Mike decided to join the Marine Corps. It changed the trajectory of his life. Mike served as a company clerk from ‘83-’87. Mike is happily married with three children.
Jacob is Mike’s oldest son. He, like his father, was a bit restless and lost when he was in high school. Jacob, like his father, found direction in the military. He is currently in the US Army, winding own his service obligation in Ft. Carson’s Colorado. He went to boot camp at Ft. Benning, GA and did a tour in in Iraq. He met a girl while he was in and it looks like they will marry. By all accounts- the Army was good for Jacob.
This post is long, and if I wrote fully about my love and gratitude for this family, I would still be here tomorrow. I believe in fate and trust that it had a hand in my spilling milk on that little blonde girl, Lisa, in fourth grade who became my true BFF, my life long friend and confidant. And in Mike telling me she didn’t live there when I ventured down to her house that first time. And in Mark trusting me with his secrets like a big sister. And in Jay helping me to hone my debating skills and have a voice amongst adults – learning the importance of respect versus winning. And in Shirley accepting me into her home, her family and her heart. I believe those who serve never stop. I thank you all for your service but also your love and support. I am forever indebted.
The Jarrell family, like my family, my husband’s family and many others I know gave multiple generations of service to this country. Considering that less than 14% of the population are veterans, less than 1% currently serve in our all voluntary military and only .46% of the total population are combat veterans- we, as a country, owe a TREMENDOUS debt to families like the Jarrells. It doesn’t matter why you join- but that you are willing to stand point, raise your hand, and give up many of the rights you are fighting to defend. When you join the military- you sign a contract with your government, swear an oath to defend the United States Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic; and bear true faith and allegiance to the same.
So, today, with my last tribute I ask you- when was the last time you considered the privilege it is to be an American. The freedom to be pissed off at your government and challenge it- whether by protest or at the ballot box? Or the luxury of clean water and a dependable and safe food source? Or the privilege to openly worship as your heart calls?
I started these tributes on a whim. Each day, I would spend a few minutes thinking about whom I wanted to write about and it was fun. I am very proud of my circle of family and friends and the fact I had NO problem finding 31 people to talk about.
I ask you to take a moment to find a veteran in your life, and tell them thank you. Thank them for their willingness to serve, for the sacrifice they made, their family made so that you could spend this weekend, mowing your lawn or watching a little league game, perhaps questioning the behavior of your elected officials over a beer. Meanwhile, 865,265 veterans are waiting in a backlog of claims for their benefits the government they fought to defend promised them.
And finally, June is PTSD awareness month- learn the facts and lose the stigma. You can go to Loveourvets.org to learn how you can help.
My thanks to those of you who have been playing along- if you want to see all of the tributes they can be found on my blog. https://marymargaretmaule.wordpress.com
God bless and safe return to all those currently deployed.