Two years ago, my son and I were at the Marine Corps Base at Quantico, Va.
It was right around his 33rd birthday and we were attending a conference on the Marine Corps 100th Anniversary of World War I.
Four of our kinsmen served in World War I and three with the storied 4th Brigade, Marine, of the 2nd Infantry Division, American Expeditionary Force. One of them, Pvt. Joseph Otto Turley, was killed at Armistice, shot the last day of the war, Nov. 11, 1918 and died the next day.
Our “Uncle Otto” and his two brothers Tom and Jess, were with the Marines from the end of the Battle of Belleau Wood, to the end of the war. Tom got shot, too, but he lived to return home in Auburn, Wash., where he was joined by Jess when he finished serving in Occupation Germany.
Jess was in the Rhineland, until June 1919, a few dozen miles from where I was stationed more than 50 years later with the 8th Infantry Division. Three out of four brothers survived the Great War, one killed, one wounded.
After the conference, my son and I went to visit the grave of our kinsman, Otto Turley, at Arlington National Cemetery. We walked a mile or so from the visitor center in a drenching summer rain and it didn’t bother us much, because we knew the Turley brothers marched dozens of miles, maybe more, through pouring rain of summer and autumn in France in 1918.
We got to Otto’s grave and paid our respects. Next, we walked to the grave of a battle buddy killed in Iraq.
We saluted there, too and the rain was squishing out of my desert boots from a hole formed from wear.
Another of our Iraq battle buddies, a lieutenant colonel who was a lieutenant when the Iraq War launched in 2003, took us to see the evening retreat at Marine Corps Headquarters in Washington, D.C.. The USMC silent drill team, with its tossed rifles, will send chills down your back.
This all came back in a rush with one of those social media “memories” things that shows you the snapshots from a couple of years ago.
We went to the Quantico conference to find out what it took to correct an ancient error on Uncle Otto’s nearly 100-year-old grave marker.
Mission accomplished, truly. We got it done. Arlington corrected our kinsman’s date of death on the headstone.
Our family’s military service traces back to the Civil War. Civil War, the winning side, World War I and World War II, the Cold War, Iraq and Afghanistan. Vietnam was the one we missed, by grace of the calendar.
Most who fired their weapons in hot wars will tell you their main fight is for the buddy on their right and the buddy on their left.
Many of my veteran friends have spent decades, sometimes dogged by PTSD, sometimes not, wondering what it was they were sent to fight for.
Except for this, somewhere past personal survival, there was a belief that it was worth fighting to preserve the rights and freedoms of Americans, even those we might disagree with.
Those are the freedoms in the First Amendment, which is why it is the first.
The amendment asserts the freedoms, that Congress “shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people to peaceably assemble and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
I have friends and family in Portland, Ore., some of whom are protesting, my son among them. They are not terrorists or that nebulous Antifa, or liberals or conservatives or libertarians.
But they are anti-fascist and some are veterans, my son among them.
They know why they served and they know what they are willing to defend. They know the difference between terrorists and peaceful protesters, and they have already fought the one to defend the rights of the other.
Dennis Anderson is a licensed clinical social worker. An Army veteran, he deployed with local National Guard troops to cover the Iraq War for the Antelope Valley Press. He works at High Desert Medical Group on veterans and community mental health initiatives.