With Veteran’s Day coming up, I started thinking about Carl Seiberlich, a retired Admiral who always told me to take the day off.  Years ago, when I went to work with Carl in the Washington D.C. office of American President Lines (APL), while I knew that Carl was in the Navy, he rarely offered any commentary about his time in the service.  He talked more about his farm in Northern Virginia than about his military career.  In fact his comments were usually limited to joking about his concern that Arlington Cemetery would fill up before he died and he would be buried at Quantico with the Marines.

Over time I learned that Carl was a graduate of the US Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point.  He served in World War II, the Korean War, took part in the naval blockade of Cuba during those critical days in October of 1962 and served during the Vietnam War.  During his years in the Navy he became an aviator, was Captain of the USS Hornet and picked up the Apollo 11 and Apollo 12 astronauts.  He knew Presidents, countless members of Congress, astronauts and celebrities. He wasn’t just an eyewitness to some of the more critical moments of our nation’s history – he was an active participant.  But the stories of his incredible career came slowly and often with self-deprecating humor.  His story of how the Navy dealt with “moon germs” with President Nixon on board the Hornet was a story I asked Carl to retell many times.      

I once got Carl and another impressive individual, retired US Coast Guard Admiral William Benkert, together for lunch one day.  While they knew of each other, they had never actually met.  I listened for hours as the two men recalled their days during World War II.  Being the only ones left in the restaurant as the staff was setting up for dinner, I urged each of them to record their personal stories to share with others.  Both were reluctant to do so – they just viewed their time in the service as their job.

Carl Seiberlich, Admiral Benkert and millions of other American heroes have provided the rest of us with opportunities that many others around the world are not able to experience and enjoy.  In return, we owe them far more than what is currently being provided.  One very simple way to honor our veterans is to vote on Election Day – a basic right of our democracy that unfortunately most of us do not recognize, appreciate or exercise.  Voting is relatively easy and quick.  Defending the right to vote is much more complex, often tragic and comes at great personal sacrifice.

On Election Day, honor a veteran by voting.  And on Veteran’s Day, think of Carl and all veterans and offer your thanks and appreciation.