HBA of Metro Orlando President, Marion McGrath, Thanks Veterans
November, for most of us, is a time of excitement and preparation. The brisk, fall air brings with it the drama of political elections, and the knowledge that the holidays are quickly approaching. In all of our hustle and bustle, we often forget to acknowledge Veteran’s Day (November 11th). Marion McGrath, Partner at Jonathan McGrath Construction, LLC. and the 2011 President of the Home Builders Association of Metro Orlando (HBA of Metro Orlando) has no intention of letting those around her forget, and she took a unique opportunity to celebrate and thank those who have served our country, including her own son.
On November 4th, Marion was installed as the President of the HBA of Metro Orlando. The annual ceremony to install the new executives of the Association, as well as the Board of Directors is typically an evening filled with speeches, oaths and the usual “pomp and circumstance” that goes along with these types of events. Marion knew that this is not what she wanted for her long awaited installation. She thoughtfully and deliberately worked with the staff at the HBA to create an evening that was about much more than recognizing the new officers.
Because of her own experience as a “Marine Mom”, Marion has been passionate about acknowledging and celebrating the Veterans that have served our country for a long time. When Lee Holt, a long time colleague in the construction industry, fellow Board member at the HBA, and a veteran himself, forwarded Marion an email including a “viral video” of a former Marine’s rousing rendition of the SECOND verse of the Star Spangled Banner, he asked if she would consider playing it at the installation ceremony. Marion knew instantly what she would do. From that moment on, she set about planning an evening that celebrated our country’s many dedicated veterans, as well as the association’s new leadership.
“Coming off of the tumultuous nationwide elections, and facing yet another difficult year in the home building industry, I wanted to remind everyone one who came that night of what we truly have to be grateful for” McGrath said. To Marion, patriotism isn’t a political or flippant word; it’s an emotion that she feels every day. “Sometimes, even the most successful and connected among us need reminders of what’s important in life. I know, because I was one of those people”.
McGrath shared in her speech the night of her installation, what she meant by being “one of those people”. Her son, Greg, joined the United States Marines Corp on May 17th, 2003, exactly one day after his high school graduation. “I had to learn to live with the fact that my son was a Marine, and everything that meant to me as a mother. I was all at once proud, hopeful, terrified and empty. I wouldn’t be whole again until he was home safely.” Going through the process of acceptance in regards to her son’s service, led Marion to think of not only of the many soldiers that have served before him, that may have lost their lives, limbs, or health, but also of their families. The mothers, fathers, wives, husbands, children… all waiting, just like she was, for some word of their loved ones’ safety. And the terrifying thought that some of those families would not get that word, but instead would be facing a funeral, or a long road to recovery.
After four years of dedicated service, every day of which Marion felt like she was serving right next to him, Greg returned home, healthy and safe. She and her family were so happy and grateful to have him home, and spent as much time with him as possible. They had to admit, that yes, his service to our country had changed him. The Marines sent home a strong and extremely impressive young man. At lunch one day with Greg, and her husband Jack McGrath, they were all chatting about the trials and tribulations of what was going on in their lives’ and business. After patiently listening, Greg looked at the two of them and said “Mom and Jack, I’m listening to you talk about your problems. I don’t mean any disrespect, but…. You really don’t have problems.”
As Marion shared in her speech at the installation ceremony that night, the stark realization of what he had seen during his years of service brought everything in to perspective for her. “…what he had witnessed and dealt with…. from that moment on, I looked at life so differently.” McGrath told the crowd that her son had taught her the most valuable lesson of her life.
Our daily lives as Americans are mostly blessed. Yes, we all have problems, yes we all have complaints… some worse than others. But, for the most part Americans have so much to be grateful in their daily lives. “We owe a huge part of that to our veterans. As a country, we tend to forget the sacrifices that got us to where we are now.”
Marion McGrath’s installation as President of the Home Builders Association, was an incredible feat for her; she is only the second woman, and second Remodeler ever to hold the position. She spent the evening though, wanting not to take the credit the event was designed to give her, but instead hoping that everyone present felt the same about US Veterans as she did.
She did play that surprising rendition of the second verse of the Star Spangled Banner, as Mr. Holt had requested. She did ensure every veteran present (including her son) got the recognition they deserved. But more importantly, she asked every one present to put themselves in the shoes of those who are serving, have served or wish to serve our country. As the silence descended on the room, she then asked the crowd to relate that feeling to what everyone was experiencing as individuals, as company owners, or as employees, in this difficult economy.
Was it similar? Maybe. Was it with the same gravity or consequence? Of course not.
This Veteran’s Day, Marion McGrath will be celebrating the many incredible individuals that have chosen to serve our country, and the families that they leave behind to do so. Despite any political persuasion one may have, taking a moment to thank our military personnel is a simple, yet rewarding gesture we should each act upon as American citizens. It will likely change our perspectives as parents, siblings, friends or colleagues, as it did for Marion McGrath.