Jack was the funniest guy I had ever met. He was one of my grandfather’s friends, a seventy-something Brooklyn guy who could make you laugh at the drop of a hat and cook a mean marinara sauce in no time at all. He had fought in World War II. His wife said that he returned home a different man—still full of heart, still wanting to make her laugh and smile, but with a depth that reflected things he had seen and lived that most of us could probably never understand.
Jack gave me advice from time to time in my middle school years. He would tell jokes when mean girls made me want to crawl under my bed and hide. He would advise me which boys looked like trouble from afar and which ones would probably remember to buy me a corsage for the school dance. Most importantly, he would share stories about friendship, loyalty, commitment, patriotism, and strength. It seemed as though no matter what nonsense got tossed his way in this crazy mess called life, he would tackle it and never let it shake him. His priorities were always lined up just as they ought to be. He never stressed the little things. And he wasn’t afraid of much. I remember wondering what he had seen and heard to build someone so strong. Every now and then, he would tell a story, pause, and look away for a moment. Then he would look back at me and voice a lesson he wanted me to learn. I always wished I could see what he saw in the moment he looked away, that I could learn a little more about the man who had overcome so much.
Jack’s stories taught me about betrayal, about love, and about fighting for what you believe in. War had taught him to be disciplined and to dig deep for courage when you need it most. It had taught him the value of someone really having your back and how to overcome the disappointment when others don’t. It had taught him to keep fighting for something even when you’re exhausted and to believe in the power of your mind and body to do big things. It had taught him that love bridges distance and that the memory of someone’s smile can sometimes save you in ways you hadn’t imagined.
Years later, when life hands me lemons, I still think of Jack and do my best to make lemonade.
Politics is such a divisive game. It brings out the ugliness in many. But when I give speeches throughout the country or have conversations in television green rooms or on air, one thing always brings people together—the desire to protect and honor our veterans. Honoring their sacrifice and seeing to it that they receive proper care continuously brings people of different political persuasions together. It gives me hope for humanity and the goodness in people that bridges political and other divides.
So, thank you to all of our veterans who served. Your courage and commitment inspire us every day.
And thank you, Jack, for helping me to build strength and character before I really understood what those things meant. I carry those lessons with me every day and am a much better fighter because of them.
Cross-published in AMAC’s May print magazine.
Jedediah Bila is a Fox News host and commentator, author, columnist, and former professor and academic dean. Follow Jedediah on Twitter @JedediahBila.