Pride, courage, honor

Angel Swain is a Coast Guard spouse who comes from a long line of family members who have served; from parents and grandparents to children and grandchildren. In honor of Veterans Day, we asked her to share her thoughts on service and what Veterans Day means to her.

Angel Swain with her husband, Petty Officer 1st Class Justin Swain, and son, Airman Jade Swain, on Jade’s graduation from boot camp. Photo courtesy of Angel Swain.

Angel Swain with her husband, Petty Officer 1st Class Justin Swain, and son, Airman Jade Swain, on Jade’s graduation from boot camp. Photo courtesy of Angel Swain.

Written by Angel Swain, with contributions from Justin, Jade and Claudia Swain.

As I found myself sitting at a funeral recently, I started to realize that pride was a big part of my family; it was not just any someone who had passed, it was my father-in-law.

The thing that made this funeral different is that Jerald Lloyd Swain was a retired Navy chief with 23 years of service; some of those years spent in Vietnam. What made it even more special was seeing the generations of uniforms that were also in the room.

U.S. Army Capt. Jeremy Swain and Petty Officer 1st Class Justin Swain receive the American flag at their father’s funeral. Photo courtesy of Angel Swain.

U.S. Army Capt. Jeremy Swain and Petty Officer 1st Class Justin Swain receive the American flag at their father’s funeral. Photo courtesy of Angel Swain.

Jerald and Jeannie Swain had three sons, the first and oldest is U.S. Army Capt. Jeremy Swain, second oldest is Coast Guard Petty Officer 1st Class Justin Swain, my husband, and the youngest is police Sgt. Josh Swain. In addition, Jerald’s oldest grandson and my oldest child, U.S. Air Force Airman Jade Swain was there. Yes, if you are counting that is three generations of military men. But as we sat around talking about the family, we realized there was not only three, it was four because grandpa, Martin Lloyd Swain, was a WWII Army Air Corps tech sergeant and Silver Star recipient.

Four generations, four men, four families, four lives that gave it their all.

I, myself, am a military baby. I come from a family filled with veterans and I was hard-hit when I found out that my heart would hinder me from joining the many family members before me who served this great country.

With my military roots, it didn’t come as a shock to my family when I married a military man; or as I like to say, I married the military. It was even less of a surprise when we received a phone call from our oldest son, Jade, that he would be enlisting in the Air Force.

It’s because of three things that have been instilled into the hearts of so many, that military life has become a norm for this family – pride, courage and honor.

As all the siblings went through old photos and told stories of their father, I started to think of my own father, uncles, cousins and friends who also hold the status of “veteran.” The word veteran means so much to so many people and I am sure if you asked hundreds of people what the word means you will receive hundreds of different answers.

Petty Officer 1st Class Justin Swain, son; Airman Jade Swain, grandson; Jay Brown, grandson; Brian Brown, son-in-law; Army Capt. Jeremy Swain, son; Blake and Bryce Brown, grandsons; and police Sgt. Josh Swain at the funeral of retired Navy Chief Petty Officer Jerald Lloyd Swain.

Petty Officer 1st Class Justin Swain, son; Airman Jade Swain, grandson; Jay Brown, grandson; Brian Brown, son-in-law; Army Capt. Jeremy Swain, son; Blake and Bryce Brown, grandsons; and police Sgt. Josh Swain at the funeral of retired Navy Chief Petty Officer Jerald Lloyd Swain.

When I asked my husband, he replied, “I have the utmost respect for my father and those like him. My father always performed his duties with his all. Yes, he sacrificed a lot and so did our family, but he gave us everything…Many military personnel gave their lives in life and death, some not even having the chance to have a family, some leaving young families behind and some making it through but changed forever from their experiences. Almost every military person has this same sort of story. So with the word veteran, I think of the same struggles of my father.”

To me, a veteran is someone who sacrificed a time in their life to fight for my rights; someone who has chosen to be the protector of not only their own family but also several families. Veteran also means that there was a family who had to endure loss, sleepless nights and moving.

All of this made me want to teach my five children that sacrifice is an awesome thing. It’s a powerful love, a strong action and something that we should be thankful for. When our baby girl, Claudia, asks, “Why did daddy leave without finishing his dinner?” I simply reply, with love, “He is going to make sure no bad guys make it to our house and that it will be safe to go out and play tomorrow.”

So what is Veterans Day? It’s a day to stop and think about what these men and women have done for you and your family. What they have given up so you can have the freedoms you have. It’s a day to think about the lives that have been lost, so you can live yours.

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