Exactly a year ago, on Veterans’ Day, I had the honor of presenting my father with a Patriot Award for his work as a Veteran serving other Veterans. It was a moment that still brings a tear to my eyes when I remember the look on my father’s face when he realized I was the one presenting him with the award (I flew in to surprise him). It was a moment my family will never forget.
I have always been my father’s “mini-me.” I look just like him, I act like him, I have his temper, and thankfully I have his courage and strength.
When I graduated from high school at the age of seventeen, I made the decision that I wanted to go to college 3,000 miles away in Southern California. I didn’t know anyone there. All I knew was I wanted to follow my dreams. It was one of the bravest things I have ever done. I remember getting letters from my father (which I still have) where he told me how proud he was of me and how I reminded him of how he felt when he was drafted into the Army and sent off to Vietnam. He knew it was something he had to do even though it was hard to be so far away from all his loved ones. So in a weird way, I was following in his footsteps.
Ever since I was a young kid, I always looked up to my father. He was my hero. He wasn’t the best at the academics (that was what Mom was for) but he could fix anything. I have always loved to go on jobs with my Dad, watching him intricately create a plumbing grid that never existed before he arrived or watch him repair something that others could not. I have helped him dig basements, install garbage disposals, lay drywall, build a garage, roof a house, lay copper pipe, etc. I have learned so many skills from my father that my guy friends envy.
But for me, the biggest life lesson my father has ever taught me was that if you give respect, you get respect and with that, you can make a difference in the world. In our family, we feel that the active military and veterans deserve the greatest amount of respect. Freedom isn’t free and our military, along with their families, make the greatest sacrifices to ensure that our freedoms remain intact.
My father inspired me to start Operation Easter Basket, an annual event where we send care packages to our service men and women. I am a member of the Women’s Auxiliary for the VFW Menge Post where my grandfather was postmaster and my father is a lifetime member. We accept donations and I knit scarves for our annual Veterans’ Council Stand Down, where Veterans help other Veterans in need. Every year, the amount of homeless Veterans seeking assistance doubles. And any time I come across a service man or woman in uniform, I walk up to them, shake their hand and tell them “Thank You.” I do all of this because of my father and the values he bestowed upon me at a young age. And as a teacher, I have the opportunity to bestow the same respect and values upon my students.
So this Veterans’ Day, when we honor all the amazing men and women who have provided us with all of the freedoms we have (like the right to OCCUPY), I want to once again honor my father, a Vietnam Veteran who has inspired me to be the best person I can be. Happy Veterans’ Day, Dad!!!
“Freedom isn’t Free!” A Big thank you to all of our military and veterans for our freedom. God Bless America!
On November 10th, General Motors and the UAW held their annual Veterans’ Day event where they choose to bestow a Patriot award to specific Veterans for the work they do for other Veterans. In September, I took it upon myself to contact the nominating committee and asked them to consider my father as one of their recepients of the award. On October 29th, my father called me to tell me that he was receiving the award and they told him that their decision was based on letters written by his wife and daughter. He sounded so excited about the award. As soon as I hung up the phone, I booked my flight home and started “Operation Surprise Dad.”
With my brother as my co-conspirator, I flew into Detroit on November 9th. On the morning on November 10th, with the help of some of my Dad’s friends, they snuck me into the event, got me onto the stage and I hid behind a curtain for an hour. Then I heard my Dad’s friend “Big Al” talk about my Dad and why he was receiving the award. They asked my Dad to come up to accept the award–that was my cue. I stepped out from behind the curtain and I was halfway across the stage before my father looked up to see who was handing him his award.
With my eyes filled with tears, I managed to make it safely down the stairs. When I saw my father, also with tears in his eyes, I could only manage, “You didn’t think I would miss this, did you?” His reply, “This is as much your award as it is mine.” Then I flung myself into my father’s waiting arms. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house–except for my grandmother, but she has alzheimers so she had no clue what was going on. We definitely stole the show–and the front page story of the Tech Center News. I may never get married and have the father-daughter dance every girl dreams of but I can definitely say that I had one amazing moment that I shared with my father that neither one of us will ever forget.
So I thought it would be a nice tribute to my father if I shared the letter I wrote:
Dear Mr. Waite,
My name is Kelly Brinker and I am Bob Brinker’s daughter. My mother told me that you are a part of a group looking to honor someone for their work with the Veterans. I am writing to you today in hopes that you would consider my father as one of your honorees.
As a Vietnam Veteran, my father has been an active VFW member, as well as UAW member, for as long as I can remember. I can honestly say that my childhood was spent in the VFW Menge Post 6756 Hall and the UAW Local 160 Union Hall. He has always been an active participant and volunteer–as well as an amazing role model for his children. When he was finally given the chance to be the Veterans’ Chairperson for Local 160, a passion inside of him ignited. He finally had the chance to do more for all of the Veterans whom he admired and respected for their sacrifices. He became active with the Region 1 Veterans Council and helps out with their annual “Stand Down” event where veterans help homeless veterans. He also created a “thank you” video for our veterans and current active military that aired at a veterans event and is available for view on Youtube.
In addition to assisting the Veterans, he has taken an active role in helping out our current active military serving overseas. I remember having a discussion with my father one evening about the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. He told me his biggest fear was that these “young kids” would be treated the same way he was when he was drafted and served in Vietnam. He wanted these men and women to know that we support them and that no solider should have to endure the same treatment as the Vietnam Veterans who were spit on when they returned from battle. That’s when we decided to create Operation Easter Basket. We partnered with General Motors, UAW Local 160, VFW Menge Post 6756, and Any Solider, Inc. to send out 800 care packages the first year and 1400 care packages the second year. He earned the reputation as being someone whom the Veterans and Soldiers could turn to. The Blue Star Mothers even contacted him after reading about our event in the Macomb Daily and asked for his assistance. Their sons were in charge of training the Iraqi soliders and they saw the Lion as a sign of courage. They had been trying to get the Detroit Lions to donate to the troops for over a year. They asked my father for his assistance and within a matter of weeks, he received donations from Detroit Lions and the Ford Motor Company.
I know that my opinion of my father is biased. I was blessed to be raised by a man who taught me to always thank a Veteran and a solider–and to buy American. I am who I am because of the values and morals that my father bestowed upon me. I love my father for who he is and all he has done. And I love that he does what he does without expecting anything in return. My father is a very humble man who is happy to be behind the scenes. He doesn’t help others so he can be put in the limelight–actually my father rarely takes credit for all he does. My father does what he does because he is a compassionate man with a huge heart. He is always the first to volunteer for any event involving the Veterans. He is usually the first to arrive and the last to leave. And anyone who knows him knows that he never shows up alone–he always has his wife, kids, grandkids, friends and other family members in tow. You will always see the “Brinker Bunch” at every local Veterans event.
So again, please consider my father, Bob Brinker, as one of your honorees for all he has done, for all he continues to do and for everything that he will do for years to come.
Thank you for your time.