I grew up in a blue-collar house that turned white-collar over the years.  My dad earned his GED soon after my brother was born, then continued with his education throughout the early years of my childhood, eventually earning a bachelor’s degree and finding his way into running nursing homes.  I graduated high school (barely, thanks in large part to just not going very often) and since I’d gotten hurt my senior year, my football hopes had evaporated.  I chose to pursue interior demolition as a means to make money while coaching football on the side, because when you’re nineteen and lift weights, there aren’t a lot of better gigs you can land than smashing down walls with your best buds and a sledge-hammer.

Over the years, my brothers and I found our unique niches – eldest brother went into the racing world (one I dabbled in with far less success), my younger brother is a professional video game player that works for Blizzard in California, and after running around the globe in uniform for a while, I eventually (and with quite a bit of luck) managed to convince a few companies to pay me to write.  My mother, who might be the toughest lady on God’s green Earth, even went on to graduate from college the same week that I did.

All of us have distanced ourselves quite a bit from the small camping trailer my family shared as a home when I was young, but none of us have forgotten the days of earning a living with our bare hands.  Even now, as a snooty writer with a master’s degree and a member of a bunch of silly societies we use to slyly point out how high our GPA’s were, I spend most of my free time with mechanics, welders, and the types of folks that take whatever job they can to keep the bills paid.  It’s not that I don’t like my white-collar brethren, I just don’t share a lot of their worldly experiences.

A lot of television shows would have you believe that the types of people who spend their lives busting their knuckles for a paycheck just aren’t as smart as those of us who make a living at a desk – something I always had trouble stomaching.  I knew my mom and dad were smart, I knew my friends’ parents were too – they just weren’t working in the suits and high rises I saw on TV.  Fortunately, just as I was making the transition from interior demolition to race mechanic, a show called “Dirty Jobs” debuted on the Discovery Channel.

The host, Mike Rowe, demonstrated week after week that the people who make a living by “getting dirty” aren’t less than those who make a living in an office building.  He was immediately a hero of mine; an articulate man who truly honored and respected the guys and girls that do the world’s dirty work.

As a Marine, I spent a lot of time doing dirty work.  Every Marine is a rifleman, but every Marine is also a janitor, a landscaper, a hole digger, and a whatever-the-hell-else-we’re-told-to-do’er – and my love affair with Mr. Rowe continued until his show came to an end just a month or so before I left the Corps.  Since then, he’s become a huge supporter of people pursuing trades instead of degrees when they’re not necessary – encouraging the world to stop assuming someone needs a bachelor’s degree to have value, and start respecting the plumbers, the carpenters, the farmers of the world for the invaluable services they provide our society.

He’s also a huge supporter of the military.

He now uses social media and podcasting as a means by which to spread his message, one that is mirrored by his non-profit, mikeroweWORKS.  Of course, no one in this day in age can avoid the political vitriol that is internet commenting, but Rowe often responds to his critics in a measured, reasonable, and downright polite tone.