By Spencer Whelan
My Dad, Ron Whelan, is a combat veteran. Like many combat veterans of all generations, the details of his story have been slowly emerging over time. I remember the first time when we visited the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington DC. I was about 10 years old and it felt like one of our normal family sight-seeing vacations. I had no idea what that trip to the Wall meant to my Dad.
Everything was normal, from my perspective, until we reached Panel 51E and Dad read the name John H. South on line 49.
In that instance, the trauma of watching his friend and leader being killed-in-action all seemed to return to him at once. I didn’t understand it at the time, but I knew something very profound had occurred. Over the days, months and years that followed, I learned the story of Capt. South and the impact he made on my father’s life. The story took literal generations to unfold.
Recently, this happened again. I’ve been working with Texas Central as a client since early 2015. I passionately believe in this project and I believe in the concept of “truth telling” as a marketing and communications strategy. My interactions with the people on this project have proven to me that Texas Central is composed of Texans who are truly attempting to build something great for our state, for our country and for generations of Texans to come.
Having worked with them for almost 4 years now, I was so surprised when my Dad told me that on two of the three R&R’s (military slang for “rest and recuperation”) he chose to go to Japan — in no small part, because he loved riding the Shinkansen train back and forth from Tokyo to Osaka. Not only that, but he had first ridden the train during the second week of November 1967. Meaning he rode the train on Veterans Day 1967, and now, over half a century later, his son is working to bring the latest generation of Shinkansen trains to our home state of Texas.
I couldn’t believe the ironic symmetry of this revelation. After years of hearing the horrors of war from my father’s perspective. This was the first time I heard about an experience from that year of his life that he truly loved. For just a few days, he was able to separate from the savagery of war and instead took comfort the train, the technology, the innovation and the attitude of optimistic futurism it represented. The Shinkansen train, in many ways, gave him hope.
It took 51 years for this part of his story to come out. He now has two generations below him to carry on his legacy even further. The Shinkansen train is now part of that legacy. I can’t wait to ride a Shinkansen train in Texas, and I hope my son will ride it and many more like it in the generations to come. To me, this project is much more than a client, it is a mission. I encourage all of you to join me in saying…
It’s about time, we #BuildThisTrain.
Disclosure: Spencer Whelan is the Founder and CEO of Proclaim Advocates LLC which is a contracted vendor of Texas Central and produces marketing and communications content on their behalf.