I come from a very proud family. A family full of professional bankers, nurses, teachers and everything in-between. I'm very lucky to come from a place where integrity was always the forefront of my education and well, education was the forefront of everything.
When I was younger I would head downstairs to my grandma's home (she owned a two flat on the South Side of Chicago) and on the mantle were pictures of our extended family. One picture always struck me as something that was in direct polar opposite of the generation before me that was pretty anti war:
This one. This is my great great grandfather Andrew Jackson Sr. wearing very stoically and proudly his purple heart. To look at this picture now and to try to put context around it makes my brain implode a little.
My first comedic thought is "Brother found someone with a camera! Good on you! See! The camera did not suck out of your soul!"
Then of course the forefront of my education comes forward. This man served our country proudly, but history states it was not an easy road to do for African Americans during this time period. Segregation within the army for years as far up to the Korean War suggests that my Great Great Grandfather did the most menial jobs, was put out on the front lines first, could not congregate or even give his own blood to help out his fellow soldiers who were not his skin complexion.
History suggest if he served during War War II he might have been part of some pretty horrific experiments by our own military.
Add to this the moment he was relieved of duty, he had it just a little worse off than most soldiers coming back receiving simple courtesy, kindness and integrity as a black man. In many cases it was not just going home and trying to find a job. For many African American soldiers, it was coming home only to be lynched.
I take an old racist joke to heart and change it for this circumstance: What do you call a black man who served in the military and received a purple heart? A nigger.
Absolutely not funny. Incredibly painful for African Americans in general and African Americans who served historically and now.
But, there he is. Proudly. Stoically. He stands in this picture with his purple heart proud of his accomplishments, his integrity seemingly high. His pride shining through this picture. This man worked for a larger purpose above his own freedom and lack of rights: Fighting for the freedom and rights of a country.
Everything he stood for: Integrity and a bigger purpose. His willingness to risk his life for a cause makes it possible for not only myself and other African Americans back then to focus on getting just our basic rights in this country, but for everyone to be able to continue feeling safe and having continued freedoms.
I don't believe in the idea of war, but I do believe in the support of our soldiers who risk life and limb everyday to protect the idea of country. All of them. Including Gay, Lesbian and Americans of Muslim faith who seem to be going through the same sort of heartache in the military at this moment as my great great Andrew Jackson Sr. went through.
I'm proud of him and every person willing to give up their lives for a bigger picture. We all should be proud of every man and woman of all races, creeds and sexual orientation who call themselves American Soldiers today.
Let's make Andrew Jackson Sr. proud. As proud as he looks in this picture.
Causes Shaun Landry Supports
The Alzheimer's Foundation, NAACP, Breast Cancer Foundation, Gilda's Club.