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    May 31, 2024

    Reflecting on Military Appreciation Month

    During Military Appreciation Month this May, I had the honor of marching in the 2024 National Memorial Day Parade in Washington, DC, with the National Desert Storm War Memorial Association (NDSWM). Participating in this march allowed me to celebrate and honor those who have fallen while serving our country. Being a part of this event was particularly meaningful as I recently began working for Markon, a company that shares my commitment to respecting and celebrating those who have served.

    Photo08On Memorial Day, hundreds of veterans who served during Operation Desert Storm in 1991 gathered in our nation’s Capital to honor those who have died during their military service. I marched in one of the largest groups of veterans in the National Memorial Day Parade on Constitution Avenue in Washington, DC. The parade was broadcast live and produced by the American Veterans Center.

    Less than one mile from the parade route is the location where the Desert Shield and Desert Storm Memorial will be constructed. The memorial is projected to be completed and dedicated in the fall of 2025. Cee Freeman, Vice President of the National Desert Storm Memorial Association, said, “During Operation Desert Storm, I served with the finest fighting force ever assembled. 33 years later, I am honored to be in the official reviewing stand on Memorial Day to witness their commitment, honor, and veneration for the men and women who died while serving.”

    For background, I am a veteran of the US Army and served 4 ½ years active duty in the Infantry and 2 ½ years as an FAA-certified Air Traffic Controller. I completed Basic Training and Airborne school at Fort Benning, Georgia, and then served a year on the DMZ in South Korea, just a stone’s throw from Panmunjom. From there, I was assigned to the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. During a deployment to West Point, Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, and we immediately returned to Fort Campbell to prepare for deployment to Saudi Arabia, leading to Operation Desert Shield and, ultimately, Desert Storm.

    Photo04 Desert Storm, Somewhere in Iraq, 1991I’m very proud to have served my country during this time. In retrospect, I have always felt that we had very strong leadership during the Gulf War. President Bush (FPOTUS41) and his senior military leaders, many of whom had served during the Vietnam War era, were adamant that we should not be seen as “occupiers” and that we would go in, get the job done, and leave – and that’s exactly what we did. Just as important, we had the overwhelming support of the American people and nations worldwide. Sadly, that has not always been the case, as with the Vietnam-era veterans.

    A number of years ago, I became aware of the NDSWM and their goal of building a memorial to commemorate and honor those who served and those who paid the ultimate price during Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm. The NDSWM had been a regular participant in the National Memorial Day Parade in Washington, DC, for a number of years, but, being based overseas, it just wasn’t a feasible option for me to participate.

    Photo22-1That changed when my spouse, Jane, and I relocated to Virginia, and I began working for Markon earlier this year. When the NDSWM put the call out for volunteers for this year’s parade, I reached out to two special friends. First, Sam W., with whom I served in both South Korea and the Gulf War. Even though we had not physically seen each other in over 32 years, he did not hesitate when I asked him to join me in the parade. The other friend, Brian C., was someone I grew up with in my Indiana hometown. His mother was our Den Mother in Scouts, and we were in the marching band together. He, too, served in Korea and the Gulf War and now lives in the Northern Virginia area. In no time at all, the three of us were making preparations to join together to march in honor of those servicemen and women who gave their lives for the very freedoms we enjoy today.

    Photo01 1 (2)It was an incredible experience, and we had the honor of carrying leather strips, each inscribed with the name of one of Desert Storm’s fallen. I will always feel humbled and grateful for that opportunity. I also volunteered to carry the Kentucky state flag as a nod to Fort Campbell, Kentucky, and the 101st Airborne Division. The three of us intend to participate in the parade as long as the opportunity exists. Additionally, Memorial Day was made even more special this year because Jane had secretly collaborated with my two sons, who surprised me by showing up for the parade with their spouses and my grandchildren, all the way from Indiana.

    Markon's commitment to respecting each individual and celebrating unique perspectives is one of the many reasons I am proud to be part of this team. We honor those who served and continue to serve by fostering an inclusive environment where every team member's contribution is valued. If you share these values and are dedicated to what matters, consider joining our team.

    Tag(s): Culture

    Thad Smolinske

    Thad is a US Army Veteran with 20+ years of experience managing technical programs in the industry. He joined Markon in 2024.

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