I've shared just a little bit about how I was bitten by the boating bug, but friends and acquaintances sometimes ask how I became equally, if not more so, passionate about America, this bold and beautiful country of ours. What is it that imprinted on me at such an early age my patriotic zeal?
Like many things, I suspect it’s a result of a variety of influences, but there are a couple of standout factors, the first of which would be my father. My dad, Joe O’Malley, was born in Pennsylvania and all he ever wanted to do was be a Navy helicopter pilot. (He had read the book and then seen the movie, The Bridges at Toko Ri. This classic movie features a talented and brazen Irish-American pilot -- played by Mickey Rooney -- who would fly behind enemy lines during the Korean War to rescue downed aviators. Inspired by what he'd read, my dad joined the Navy and became what was then called a "NavCad,” or Naval Cadet and he went through flight training at NAS Pensacola in 1961.
My dad is a handsome fella and funny too, a natural-born storyteller. Several years after finishing flight school and being stationed in Hawaii where he flew the atomic tests in Operation Dominic, he met my mother -- Janel Temple Casner. The two of them fell madly in love. How could they not? Here was this dashing naval aviator, cracking jokes and being chivalrous, and there was this gorgeous, shapely, blonde Texas gal with a zeal for adventure. They were (and are) a wonderful couple. I was born a few years after they married, and I still have hazy memories of my dad scooping me up in his arms while he was wearing his Navy whites – the dress uniform that makes pretty much every fella look great.
My dad flew in the Navy for seven years and then got out in 1968 to become a Pan Am pilot. He was my hero then and has been every day since then. I can’t help but think that a large dose of my patriotic nature was influenced at a very early age by having a father who served his country and has, to this day long after having left the service, been zealously devoted to the United States and all the good for which it stands.
I’ve said it before, but it can never be said often enough, “Thanks, Dad. I am so grateful that you inspired in me a love for our country, a realization of how blessed I am to be an American, and for working hard and making sacrifices to give me such a wonderful life. I love you -- the whole wide world.”
There are other factors that have contributed to my ever-growing love of country -- in spite of all the issues and polarization that currently challenge it. I'll share more of those patriotism-affirming tales in the future -- including an ode to the American flag, a fervent fondness for fireworks, and a devotion to democracy.
Wishing all of you boat-lovin', America-lovin' friends a great week ahead!
Patriotically, nautically yours,