JEL INEK JOURNAL
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CHRONICLES OF AN ARMY BRAT Growing Up, Graduating FromWest Point, and Respecting the Flag
As an Army brat (by definition — the child of a member of the Army), I’m often asked the same question: “How could you stand to move all the time?” Growing up, I lived in about eight different states because my father would get transferred every 2–3 years. I can’t say what it was like compared to someone who wasn’t in a military family, but I did get used to it. The added bonus of all these moves was that we were relocating to towns where many of the kids we went to school with had the same experiences and moved a lot, too. It wasn’t too hard to make friends, because you became accustomed to that lifestyle. When the time came for me to head off to college, West Point made the most sense. Officially known as the United States Military Academy, West Point is where you go when you have aspirations of becoming an officer in the Army. I knew it would provide the kind of structure I was looking for, and given my family history, it was the perfect fit. My father graduated from West Point in 1952, I graduated in 1978, and my brother graduated in 1980. It was quite an honor to attend West Point with my brother. I could show him the ropes and support him during his first year, which is always a shock for cadets. Truthfully, I consider all my classmates and those who attended West Point with me my brothers. It’s a unique experience that only so many people in our country understand, and to this day, we’re still very close. We have a reunion every five years, and each year, my wife and I host local West Point alumni and our squid friends — Naval Academy alumni — for an Army versus Navy football party. I spent four years at West Point, and after graduation, I was stationed at Fort Sill in Oklahoma. (And if you remember, it was during this stint that I met my wife.) After my service, I went to dental school, and I’ve been a proud alumnus and veteran since. In fact, sometimes when I hear that question, I ask, “How could you stand to live in the same place your whole life?”
I was born at Fort Bragg in North Carolina. My father was a career military man and served in Vietnam twice as a battalion commander. During a stint at Fort Bragg just before shipping out for the war, my dad met President Lyndon B. Johnson, who was meeting with the men deploying to Vietnam. I have a photo of my dad and the former president shaking hands.
Today, I also have two nephews who graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy and the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, respectively. In January, my daughter is marrying a man who serves in the Marine Reserves. I joke that between us all, we pretty much have all the bases covered. In all seriousness, I’m proud of my family’s military service. Growing up on a military base and serving in the military made dedication to our country just part of our daily lives. For example, anyone who grew up on a military base knows that at 6 a.m., the bugle is going to play for the reveille, during which the flag will be raised. At 5 p.m., the bugle will also play for the retreat, where the flag is lowered for the night. No matter where you are — even if you’re driving — you stop, get out of your car, face the flag pole, and listen to the bugle. You honor that sacrifice, and you respect your flag. It’s more than just stars and stripes; it represents the freedom that men and women on that base protect every single day.
Thank you to my fellow veterans who have served.
– H. Charles Jelinek, Jr., DDS
But part of that pride also comes from my father.
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