I've been spending all day thinking about Veterans Day (particularly since I am one), and I realized I had not put up a blog post about it. This is unacceptable, so despite a bit of a delay, here is my thoughts on this wonderful holiday.
For those new to the Muse, I am a U.S. Army Veteran. It's been many a year since I served, but I was in the service for 3 years on Active duty and 2 more years on Reserve duty. I was initially trained as a Russian linguist, but I later changed to become a cryptologist. Then while I was in the Reserves, I changed once more to be trained in psychological operations (PsyOps).
Even though it's been over 20 years since I served last, I am still military to the core. I get up early (even on weekends), I make my sons keep their hair cut short and clean-cut, and I still sometimes find myself marching somewhere as opposed to just walking. To say that the military will forever be in my blood is an understatement. While I might have been a dumb punk when I went in (and I fully admit that this is true in most respects), I came out a much better man and I honestly believe I would not be as successful as I have been in all areas of my life had I not served.
For those of us in the U.S., we are lucky in that service in the military is a choice. A privilege. In many other countries around the world, this is not so. It's also interesting that there was a survey done recently regarding how well people like their jobs, and the military was right up there at the top. This speaks volumes for how much respect soldiers have for what they do and why they choose to do it. In a society where so many people abhor the job they might be stuck with, soldiers would very likely choose the same occupation again if given the choice.
It might surprise some of you, but in order to be counted a veteran, you don't actually have to go to war. You don't have to be injured either. You just have to have served at least 3 years on Active duty. This might seem like it cheapens the idea of who should be considered a veteran or not, but it really doesn't. This idea is important to me personally, because I was lucky not to have ever been involved in a war. Don't get me wrong; I would have done my duty just like any other soldier, but given what war sometimes does to a man, I'm glad I did not have to. I've never had to aim my rifle at another human being, nor have I ever had to take a life. I count myself blessed because of that fact, and I have a great deal of respect for all my fellow soldiers who have had to deal with those type of circumstances.
I used to question whether I should count myself among the honorable veterans who have placed themselves in harms way for our country, for the ideals we believe in. I don't question anymore however, thanks to words that a friend told me. He said, "You chose to stand up and do your duty, whatever that meant. You signed on the dotted line when so many others didn't. And you did so knowing that there was always the possibility you'd have to face war head on. You're as much a veteran as anyone else."
He was right. For every single one of us who have stood up and said yes, I will be a soldier and do my duty, there are countless numbers of soldiers throughout the world that do not get to choose. For every soldier that agrees to throw themselves in harm's way because of the ideals we Americans believe in, there are countless Americans who choose to enjoy the freedoms without earning their right to them. And that's okay, because we soldiers know we're doing this for you as much as for ourselves.
Thank you for listening. And thank you all veterans of the U.S. military, for choosing the path you have taken. For those who haven't had the opportunity to serve or chose not to serve for whatever reason, understand that you don't necessarily need to thank me. But you should thank a veteran somewhere. We owe our honorable veterans at least that much.