In 1978, I stood with a group of strangers and holding up my right hand, I promised to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” I went on to raise my hand two more times when I extended my military tour for six months and later when I joined the National Guard under a program called SMP.
Soldiering is never easy, but it is particularly difficult now when so many face the possibility of life altering injury and death everyday. I enlisted during peace time and although I was trained and ever ready for the possibility of battle, my daily life was relatively peaceful with my biggest threat to my safety coming from the sexual harassment from others who wore the uniform. To borrow a phrase from Charles Dickens, it was the best and worst of times for me in many ways and while there are many stories I could share on another day, today’s post has a different purpose. This is the day that Americans honor our living veterans.
Today, there are many wearing the various uniforms that make up the different branches of the American military family. Men and women who fight every day committed to the words they repeated on the day they volunteered to serve, ” I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me.” I use the word family with great intention because once you have assembled, trained, and lived with people in anticipation of a life threatening mission, you begin to see them as an extension of your family of origin. For many who grow up in less than ideal situations it may be the only family they know.
There are three veterans in particular that I like to think of as part of my family and while we never served together, I have heard bits of their individual stories over the years and have an understanding of the collective cost of their time in service. While my path was easy, these three men who fought in Vietnam, Jamie, Joe, and Bill have a different story to tell. I know what it’s like to be ready, but they know what it means to go.
Today, as advertisers hawk big sales on various goods or you sit in frustration outside a public office closed for the day, please remember the real reason for Veterans Day and offer those currently serving or those who have served, a much needed and simple…thank you.