The Underprivileged, The Uniform & The Unacceptable

Let me introduce you. This is my father, Daniel Hritzko, born 
November 25, 1918 in Chisholm, Minnesota.

His father, Dmitri, arrived in America through Ellis Island and 
worked for two years before returning to Europe to gather his wife
and two children. They settled on a large family farm where eight
more children would be born. What identified this family was their 
strong work ethic and core values. My father really did walk ten 
miles in the snow to attend school in nearby Hibbing. Then, upon 
returning home each day, family chores necessitated survival. 

What did they value?

The underprivileged. 

Why? Because this family knew what it was like 
to survive hard times. Every day was just like the one before it.
Nothing was handed to them. My father always cheered for the 
"underdog" and, consequently, was a registered Democrat his entire 
life. You didn't need talk or debate this issue. He understood, 
firsthand, what it was like to be in this country as an "outsider." 
To him, this meant you worked hard for everything that came your way.No handouts, no entitlement, no recognition. You did what you had to do. 

But that did not deter him or his siblings. They, unlike their 
parents, were college educated. And what was his next step
after high school?

The Uniform.

His high school academic career provided an athletic opportunity 
where he played football for the University of Minnesota. World War
II interrupted the continuity of his education, so he donned the 
second uniform.

The Uniform of a Soldier.

He enlisted on May 19, 1942. Except for brief discharges to complete
his education, he remained committed for a lifetime. Three wars,
eight combat campaigns, a Silver Star for crossing the 
Rhine River under heavy "enemy resistance" and countless other
accolades (The Bronze Star [twice] and a dozen others) would span hiscareer. His title by the end of his stellar career was Colonel.  Fullbird, that is. He never spoke of any accomplishments or awards.
His ability to lead came from his core trait of humility.

Allegiance to this country and what it represented went hand in hand.
The land of the free, the home of the brave. Being underprivileged 
and wearing a uniform - athletic or military - were not exclusive 
categories; rather, they represented the same core values his
family believed in.

My father died on July 23, 2001. I was able to give him recognition
in death that he never desired in life - a full honors burial at 
Arlington with a 21 gun salute. His two living brothers had seats of honor at the graveside. I accepted the flag because my mother could
not attend. 

Previously underprivileged, now being recognized in death.

Previously uniformed, now being honored by those in uniform.

I fully believe his heart would break over the current mindset as 
well as the actions by those involved in the game he loved. His 
football uniform and military uniform were not exclusive. 

It was because of the latter that he was given an opportunity as the 
former.

The Unacceptable.

Disrespect to this country or flag would have been, in my father's 
opinion, completely unacceptable. It was THIS country that afforded 
his family a chance, an opportunity, and a beginning. And they knew 
it, embraced it, and embarked on it.

And because of his beginning, he gave me mine. He took a risk, he worked relentlessly, and he adopted. Me.

Because of your under privilege, you gave me privilege.
Because of your uniform, you gave me freedom.
Because of your unacceptable mindset of irreverence, you instilled
respect.

I will honor your legacy as I leave mine. 

You are the example that mutually exclusive categories do not exist.

 

Colonel Daniel Hritzko
November 25, 1918 - July 23, 2001



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