Hug a veteran today

On this Veteran Day -- as we honor everyone who has ever donned a military uniform and served our country -- I don't have to remind you that the "Greatest Generation" is slipping away from us, so this would be a pretty good time to remember what hundreds of thousands of World War II vets did in the jungles of the South Pacific and the European theater.

It's not hard for me to remember, because I'm in California at the moment visiting the last surviving World War veteran in my immediate family. My dad, a U.S. Marine major (at retirement) who served in Asia in WWII, passed away when I was 20. My mom, who was a Navy Lieutenant who helped patch up the wounded at the Naval hospitals along the West Coast in 1944 and '45, is 92 and still has amazing recall about the war years.

She's also a Red Sox fan for some reason, but you can't hold that against her on Veterans Day.

I bring this up because we still tend to stereotype our war veterans as men, even though thousands of women served in the two world wars and women have had a steadily increasing presence in our fighting forces ever since.

My mom (right) graduated from the world-renowned nursing program at Johns Hopkins in 1943 and -- along with much of her graduating class -- answered the recruiting call for nurse/officers to assist in the war effort. She never regretted that decision, though she had a fine job waiting at the hospital upon graduation.

I'm just glad I have never been faced with a decision like that. I was lucky to reach adulthood between the Viet Nam War and all that has happened the past 20 years in the Middle East. My brother went to Viet Nam and I ended up partying my way through college and watching baseball games for a living.

If you sense a tinge of guilt there for being one of the few members of the family who didn't serve, you're pretty perceptive, but it's mostly a sense of gratitude that I think all of us share for those who made that sacrifice so we can sit around imagining we're patriotic because we belong to one of the major political parties or the other.

Thanks Mom, Dad, big brother Paul and Uncle Jack (two Bronze Stars in Europe). My heroes have always been veterans.

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