America, We Need to Talk

Disrespect for military and public service has no place in American leadership. And it’s time we resoundingly said so at the ballot box.

Rusty D. Pickens
16 min readSep 6, 2020


John William May’s grave-site, Highland Cemetery, Stonewall, Oklahoma.

Hey there. Have a seat. I want to show you something special.

These are photos of my grandfathers, Bob and Bill. Both of them World War II veterans. My paternal grandpa, Robert Francis (Bob) Pickens, and my maternal grandpa, John William (Bill) May, fought in the European theater.

Robert Francis Pickens (left) and John William May (right)

Their details and service records are hazy, as both men didn’t like to talk much about their time in the service and Bill passed from a heart attack way too early at age 45. But we do know that Bob was in the Ardennes Forest area of Belgium at the same time as the Battle of the Bulge. It was so cold that winter his feet literally froze while he was in a foxhole — leaving them damaged and achy for the rest of his life. Bill was also wounded — though it’s unclear to me how — and was awarded the Purple Heart as well.

Both members of the Greatest Generation, they also represented a good cross-section of America. Bill was a healthy mix of central European ancestry — most likely a descendant of Dutch and German immigrants. And Bob was half Chickasaw Indian and half a mix of Western European — particularly Scottish or Irish, as the blazing red hair on my Dad’s side of the family confirms.

Every Memorial Day, I reflect on these photos and their lives. I wonder what they’d think of current events or my recent government service and now small business ownership and I think about what I can do to honor their legacy and the future they left me. Though we swore the same oath to the same Constitution, their sacrifices and grit astound me — I doubt I’ll ever be able to work as hard for the cause of America as they did in the 1940s. We’ll truly never see another war like that or a generation quite as strong to rise to the challenge as they did. But we must try to meet the moment.

I think they’d have a lot to say about the sorry state of America in 2020. I think they’d sit us all down and give us a bit of…



Rusty D. Pickens

#Geek using my powers of technology for better government. Founder of @580Strategies - Former @ObamaWhiteHouse and @StateDept