Sunday, July 05, 2009

Continuing a Legacy...

by Paul
Well, two legacies actually, if you want to label them as such. The past few days saw events that I will count among my most treasured memories. The recent months have been very turbulent and busy for the family; we've faced a good bit of uncertainty and nervous excitement between an overseas move, a new assignment, and various other factors. But the Independence Day holiday period brought two very exciting milestones that I must proudly share with you.

First, my brother, Mark, ended one chapter in his life as he graduated from the University of Michigan. Remarkably, he did this in under three years, despite the challenging and reading intense concentrations of two majors: Political Science and Ancient Civilizations & Religious Studies. And all while participating in Naval ROTC and completing the extra Naval Science classes that came with it. As if that weren't impressive enough, on 2 July he culminated his three years of training and preparation and, after six weeks of intense screening and evaluation, graduated from Marine Officer Candidates School.

This new chapter of Mark's life begins as he starts a career as a commissioned officer of the US military. I was humbled that he chose me to officiate his commissioning ceremony, and doing so was without question the proudest moment of my ten-plus years as a Marine. Other than one great uncle, I was the first person in the extended Bertolone or Merciez families to enlist in the Marine Corps. Abbey's family carries a very strong Army lineage and I have a grandfather and four uncles who served as soldiers, but I began what may perhaps be a new tradition of Marine Corps service. Little did I know.

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It seems like not too long ago when "little" Mark was running through the woods behind our parents' home in a set of my old utilities. I wasn't very surprised when he professed a desire to serve. At his OCS graduation I was thinking that it was remarkable how he and I have maybe created a new legacy. The picture above depicts Mark and me at my own commissioning, in Ann Arbor, Michigan and, six years later, at his ceremony at the foot of the Marine Corps War Memorial in Arlington, Virginia.

On the way home to Tennessee I somehow convinced Abbey to allow a stop in Charlottesville to again visit one of my favorite places in the world: Monticello. Although the kids may not be quite old enough to fully appreciate the cultural value of Thomas Jefferson's home, it was emotional for me to be able to sit on the steps of our third President's home with my son, whose middle name is sake to the author of the Declaration of Independence.

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I sat on those same steps a little over four years ago, before we had any children, and I wanted to capture a similar shot with Ethan. Thanks to Abbey for the great pictures! Ethan and Hannah may not have realized the historical value of their location, but they immediately recognized the true value of Monticello, i.e. it's natural beauty. They had great fun running around Mr. Jefferson's walking trails and his backyard. It reminded me of a historical footnote...

For those who don't know, in his eighties and having accomplished so much, Jefferson spent his last few years sitting in the back and watching his grandchildren run and play, often joining them and abstaining from his routine of devoted reading indoors. He described it in his writings as one of the happiest times of his life. It made me truly happy to watch my own kids frolic on the same grounds and I'll always hold that memory dear.

Congratulations, Mark! And Ethan Jefferson, never forget the best qualities of your name's honoree. Happy Independence Day to everyone and God Bless the United States of America!

To read more about Monticello, click here.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Awesome reflections, bro! I have to get to Monti with the family! - Paul D