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Here's to the Veterans Who Changed My Life

November 11th each year marks Veterans Day here in the United States. Each year I try to take a moment and reflect on the Veterans who have served our country and helped make to uphold the freedoms our Founding Fathers intended for us to have. There have been a lot of important Veterans in my life. A friend from high school, my best friend from college, a few friends throughout adulthood. But there's two who changed my life. In fact, they made my life possible. Those two men are my father, Rick Giudicessi and my grandfather, Tony Giudicessi.

My Grandfather, Anthony Samuel Giudicessi, in his dress uniform. I like to tell him that this photo reminds me of the wedding scene from The Godfather when Michael comes home in full uniform.

My grandfather was the youngest of seven children born to Francesco and Grazia Giudicessi, both Italian Immigrants. My grandfather served in both the United States Army and United States Navy during World War II and the Korean War. As a first generation American serving in the military was a way to change your circumstances and in the words of "Hamilton: An American Musical" 'Rise Up.' Shortly after returning home from his service in the Army his older brother Charlie introduced him to one of his co-workers at The Utica Store, Dorothy Staley. They went on to marry in June of 1948 and have two children, the oldest of them being my father. After he got married and was a father of one he rejoined the military this time serving his time in the Navy.

My Dad, Richard Anthony Giudicessi, in his dress uniform. I grew up with this hat being part of my dress up box, currently it sits in my Dad's office. Throughout college I had his name badge attached to my backpack. My little way of carrying my Dad with me everywhere I went, literally.

On September 25th, 1968 my father was inducted into the United States Army. During this time many young men his age were drafted into the military. My Dad decided instead to enlist instead of taking chances on being drafted. He's told me on multiple occasions that it was so they would take him for his brain and not his trigger finger. He was stationed on a supply base in Vietnam and spent days at what looks like the largest and most frightening computer I've ever seen in my life. I was able to look through the scrapbook filled with photos of his time in Vietnam as a child and told small snippets of the stories. Like how they built a drive-in movie theater and how he managed to score free baseball gloves so they could have some fun on base only to find out that all of them were left-handed mitts. My favorite was that my Grandmother, being the great mother she was, would send her oldest boy care packages of home baked goodies so he could trade them with his fellow soldiers for things he wanted that they had and she'd included store bought treats for him. My Dad would still pick a Ho-Ho over homemade anything any day. He's never been comfortable sharing many stories of his time there and out of respect for him and his service I don't ask but I listen intently any time he's shared those stories with me. After his active duty time in Vietnam he was stationed in Colorado Springs until his service was complete.

Upon his return my Dad didn't see the hero's welcome that soldiers see today. The United States' involvement in the Vietnam War was protested by many Americans, including people my Dad loved and cared for. He's made it his goal to show the welcome he didn't receive to my friends as they came home from active duty service. I always wanted him to know just how proud I was to be his daughter, for a multitude of reasons including that he served his country during a time when that wasn't popular.

In his years after his military service my Dad worked with local lobbyists to guarantee that Iowa employers were required to give Military Veterans the day off on Veterans Day, which I was shocked to discover wasn't already a requirement in our state. His service to others continued after graduating from the University of Iowa when he became a teacher and spent the first 30 years of my life shaping the minds of students at DMACC via classroom teaching until he retired in 2004 and then as an adjunct teaching online courses.I've always told him he's my hero, his service in the Army is only part of why that statement has always been true. He's an incredible son, father, friend, and grandfather (which he will probably tell you is the title he's proudest of).

So thank you to all of the Veterans who selflessly served our country and helped to protect our freedom and rights. And thank you to my Grandfather and Dad for their service and for being two of the most important men in my life. Without you both I wouldn't be who I am. I feel honored to get to carry on the Giudicessi name and legacy. I can only hope I make you both half as proud to have me as your daughter and granddaughter as I am to have you as my father and grandfather.

Take a look at some incredible photos of two of the most important men in my life. I'm totally biased but I think they both look pretty adorable in their uniforms.

My Grandfather in uniform posing as if he's the latest model for Military chic clothing.

I love seeing the inscription on the bottom of this photo. My Grandpa's handwriting still looks the same to this day.

I'm pretty sure this is where my Dad's love of Jeeps began. He had a few when I was younger as a 'fun' car. My nephew happens to love this photo.

This is my favorite. This smile looks exactly like my brother's smile, my smile, and my niece and nephew's smiles when we get excited.

His glasses would be super trendy now.

I've always loved this photo. He looks so relaxed and happy.

This is sort of what he still looks like most days. Sitting at a desk working on a computer.

Dad in full dress uniform while home for Christmas. My Grandparent's tree was pretty awesome.

One last photo of my Dad. :)

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