Lt. Col. Carl Dozier, United States Army (Retired)
Understanding the true meaning of Memorial Day
By JOHN DOWNS, SR.
On the day after Memorial Day, 2013, I had the privilege of interviewing Lt. Col. Carl Dozier. In the past, I have talked to many individuals who have accomplished outstanding things with their lives, and most of them have managed to squeeze in a great deal of community service to boot. Dozier is no different. He has served his country honorably in both the United States Army and the Reserves. He participated in Operation Desert Storm. His decorations include a Bronze Star and a Meritorious Service Medal. Those distinguished awards alone would make him a cut above in most people’s eyes. Like all retired veterans, Dozier has missed his share of Christmases at home and children’s birthday parties. He has known the loneliness of wedding anniversaries celebrated by himself in a distant land. And because he was a career military officer, he knew it came with the territory. After retirement, Dozier continued to serve his community through his strong support of the VFW and the USO. He is Chairman of the Mayor’s Commission on Veterans Affairs. He also had a distinguished 30 year career as an educator in the Chesapeake Public School System. But Dozier was called upon to make another extraordinary sacrifice, one of which I was unaware when the interview began.
Dozier spoke lovingly, almost with reverence, of his son Jonathan or Jon as most people knew him. As he patiently answered my questions about his medals, and the challenges, and what life was like in Saudi Arabia, his son Jon’s name kept working its way back into the conversation. Jon was military, too – just like his dad. At first I attributed it to the natural pride any father would exhibit when a son follows in his footsteps. I noticed many pictures on the wall of Jon, even an oil painting. When Dozier excused himself briefly and produced a carefully maintained scrapbook about a foot thick, I realized who Carl Dozier really was. Carl Dozier was a Gold Star Dad.
Staff Sergeant Jonathan Kilian Dozier, 30, was killed in action on January 9, 2008 during combat operations in Sinsil, Iraq. Like his Dad, Jon had amassed an extraordinary amount of military citations including the Bronze Star for Valor, the Purple Heart, and the Meritorious Service Medal. Additionally, he earned the Army Achievement Medal with two oak leaf clusters and a host of other ribbons and awards. Carl Dozier’s treasured scrapbook contained letters from Jon’s comrades, all extolling the virtues of Jon, virtues that separate the good soldier from the extraordinary one. Senators, congressmen, and the President of the United States also sent condolences. “Ironically, Jon could have avoided military service if he wanted to,” Dozier shared, “He had a detached retina but he wanted to serve his country more than anything else. Through a couple a letters from some very influential people, Jon finally got his dream. He became a soldier.
Service to community and country is an engrained part of the Dozier family. “I am so proud of how both Jon and my daughter Jenn grew to be adults and their sense of service and commitment,” Dozier says with pride, “Jon as a combat soldier and Jenn as both a mother and a police officer.”
Normally, The Citizen is proud to use the Veteran Spotlight to honor the achievements of a deserving veteran, and rightfully so. But this month, Carl Dozier wants the spotlight to shine on Memorial Day and what it means to all Americans. “Sadly, there are many people in our country who don’t know the difference between Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day” Dozier laments. “I’m spending my days now trying to make sure that we never forget what Memorial Day means” he said.
Maybe all of us can take a moment to reflect on the Dozier family, and if we do, we won’t have any trouble understanding Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day. Carl Dozier spent a great deal of his life in a military uniform and helped defend our country. Veteran’s Day is our way of saying thank you to Colonel Dozier and the millions of veterans who made many extraordinary sacrifices in our behalf. Memorial Day, however, honors Staff Sergeant Jonathan K. Dozier who made the ultimate sacrifice for the freedom and way of life we all enjoy. All of the noble men and women who gave their lives for the American way deserve the tributes and accolades that cities and towns across America usually bestow in solemn ceremonies. But we must also reflect on the character and values of those heroes. Carl Dozier says it best, “I believed it when I graduated from Great Bridge High School in 1966, and I believe it just as strongly today. I don’t think there is a higher calling than to serve one’s country.”