In 1992 I was fortunate enough to meet Senator John McCain and the then surviving members of the Tuskegee Airmen. It was at an Air Force Sergeants’ Association banquet in Indianapolis, Indiana. As a young airman myself, only 4 years into a 22 year career, I was more than a little star struck. I remember thinking how awesome it was, the chance to meet such great Americans.
What an idiotic thought that was.
Now don’t get me wrong, those men were and are great Americans and their service to this country and their contribution to our freedom may go unmatched. The idiotic part was thinking I had not already met some great Americans. Even dumber was the implied premise I had constructed that you had to have grand achievements and be noticed by a bunch of people in order to be considered a great American.
Mr. Devlin blows that premise out of the water. To most of you this matters not a bit, and that’s ok. Really no way you could know who he is, or why I consider him to be a great American. But if you read on I’ll tell you who he is and why he is.
I met Kevin Devlin, or Duffy as we called him, when I started working in the Sears hardware department, back in Jersey, in 1985. Man, Duff was a different dude. Respectful to a fault, always on time, never left early, work hard from punch in to punch out (time cards kids – look it up), and the most conscientious kid you will ever meet. Sadly those qualities made you standout, as they were not the norm in that joint. The manager introduced me to Kevin and later told me she doesn’t mess with the stockroom, Kevin has it squared and we like it that way. I said, “He looks like he’s only 12.” She said “17, but that’s ok, he’s the best worker in the place and he’s all ours.”
It took six weeks of Air Force basic training for me to learn the labels for the traits that made Kevin a “different dude”: character, honesty, leadership, followership, desire to do well just to do well. Duff has those in spades. I had seen them before, in my old man, just didn’t know what they were called. I also learned in those six weeks at Lackland AFB that people don’t come by those traits by accident. They are taught and they are learned and hopefully they are applied. Ed Devlin had taught his youngest son well.
So Mr. Devlin taught the kid to be a stand up guy, respectful and respected. What else did he do? Oh nothing really, other than serve his country almost the entirety of his adult life.
A United States Marine, Mr. Devlin served in Korea with distinction during the war. After getting home he became a New Jersey State Trooper. He served the state of New Jersey as a Trooper for 31 years retiring as a Lieutenant. During that time he, along with his wife, raised a family of 7 kids: the afore mentioned Kevin, two more boys and four daughters.
He sought no fame, no fortune. He chased no excess. He gave and he served.
Some of you may be saying, so what, a lot of people do this, what makes him great?
Answer: All of it.
The people who tend to get labeled great are such because of their ability on a court or field, or because of their acquisition of enormous wealth. Some get that label for just being born into families of athletes or millionaires and somehow become famous for no apparent reason and we are left scratching our heads asking why. For some it seems the more bizarre the circumstances surrounding their tragic and untimely death, the higher the pedestal they are put on, the more notoriety they receive. This appears to be society’s definition of great.
I’m tired of that definition.
Mr. Devlin never asked for applause, limelight, or tried to put his kids birth pics on the cover of People Magazine for a hefty sum. He built a life, raised a family, served his fellow man, and taught his kids to do the same.
This is what greatness should look like. This is how we should define it. These are the people who should be celebrated. This is what we should strive for I think.
Look through that lens and I bet you know a lot more great Americans than you thought. When you think of someone fitting that definition you should tell people, people should know it and we should celebrate them.
Edward Vincent Devlin Jr. is a Marine, a father, and a great American and I think people should know it.
Semper Fidelis or Semper Fi, the Latin term for Always Faithful, is the common exchange between Marines when they come and go in combat or everyday life. I’m not a Marine so I’ve not earned the right. I’ll close with an Air Force tradition when one of ours takes their final flight to the heavens.
Blue Skies Mr. Devlin