Posts Tagged ‘recognition’

I have never been comfortable saying Happy Veterans Day, “Thank you for your service” has always seemed a more appropriate sentiment.  I do recognize and appreciate the difference between Memorial Day and Veterans Day; one memoralizes our loss, the other acknowledges our service.  This service and the sacrifices that come along with it are why I have never been comfortable giving thanks on this day.

I understand the sentiment and take no offense at receiving it.  This is especially true when it comes from those who have not served.  It is indeed the sentiment and the appreciation that counts, and, I at least, accept it for what it is.

All of us are taught right from the beginning about Duty, Honor, Sacrifice, Service and all those other terms the Drill Sergeants begin to verbally assault us with in Basic.  Indeed, that is what Basic is all about; stripping us down, peeling away the individuality and bad habits, and then building us back up into trained individuals functioning together as a part of a team, which in turn is part of some bigger and greater than itself.

We all have our own reasons for putting ourselves through the suck and volunteering for service.  Some of us are legacies, like LT Dan of Forrest Gump fame, members of our families have given it their all in every war our country has ever fought in. I myself, had both of my grandfathers serve, my father, both uncles on my mom’s side, a bunch of cousins as well.  I did not serve, initially anyway, because of this legacy, I did it for reasons strictly personal and selfish.  I went in with eyes wide open, looking to give my all, but that was more to do with paying my way for the benefits available, rather than a sense of blind patriotism or valor.

As I grew into what would turn in to a career, a lot of that changed.  I learned what it meant to belong, to be a part of something greater than myself.  I was fortunate that I had awesome mentors and leaders right from the beginning who helped put a slacker onto the path that would lead me to working at the very tip of the spear with people who would give the Spartans someone to fear and emulate. I was able to work with professionals, doing work that prior, I had only read about or watched on dramatized T.V.  I was privileged to befriend people, some of whom would pay the ultimate sacrifice, people who understood brotherhood and sacrifice.  Men and women who never think of themselves as brave, but continue to master the basics in order to prevail over the obstacles placed in front of them.

It is because of people like these that I have never been comfortable wishing a veteran a “Happy” day.  I do not judge or cast aspersions on anyone who does though.  It is a great honor to live in a country which recognizes us with our own special day.  For many though it is not a happy day.  Many who have seen the most extreme of horrors which war can produce are thankful to still be here, but suffer the guilt of doing so.  Gunshots are deliberate but the bullets are indiscriminate.  Why did I survive when the person next to me did not? How did I make it out of a blast zone unscathed when those around me were maimed or killed?  Was it all worth it in the end?

I will not speak for all Veterans, just for myself.  Today is our day, and I truly appreciate the recognition.  Along with the pride that comes with that recognition is a healthy measure of solemnity and a little bit of guilt.  I grew up in an era of war in which there are no lines of opposition.  The enemy is ruthless and we no longer fight to conquer and vanquish them.  We lose our friends in actions in which the objective is to preserve life but not to destroy the enemy who is creating those circumstances.  American Service Members do in other nations what those nations cannot or will not do for their own people.  That is our calling, our service. and we bear the burdens of this profession for the remainder of our lives.  I thank you for the recognition of my service, especially this solemn day.  To my Brothers and Sisters, past, present and future, Thank You for your Service and Sacrifice.


Here is a chance to give the person in your life, if you have one, that has worn a uniform the recognition they deserve for setting the example in your life that has made you the person you are today.  This can be a military veteran, police officer, fireman, EMT, relative or family friend.  As we head in to Memorial Day, we need to remember the living examples we have had as well as those who made the ultimate sacrifice.  You may put their name in what you write or choose to keep it anonymous, no matter which way you choose to go with it, if they get to see it they will know it is for them.

I will give this a kick start with a shout out to my father (who shall remain anonymous).  Today is my father’s 62nd birthday.  My young father was just shy of his 20th birthday when I was born in 1970.  Thanks to a scenic tour in the Republic of Viet Nam, he did not get to meet me until two days before my 1st birthday.  While I was born when he was away, he opted to extend two months beyond his one year tour in order to be able to complete his military commitment without any additional time stateside so he could get back to his young wife and new son.  In one of the many ironies that comes with dealing with the government, especially the military, my father, who voluntarily enlisted when it was not such a popular option received his draft notice as he was preparing to head off to Basic Training.  This simple little thing has been with me all my life and even though in typical teenage fashion I may not have shown it, it is just one of the many ways my father influenced me throughout my life and is the key thing I am going to focus on.

I learned at a very early age that each and every one of us needs to contribute in some way for this country to work.  it does not matter if you enlist in the military, become a cop or fireman, or any other government sector job.  It could be volunteering, it could simply be donating to worthwhile charitable causes.  You must contribute, especially if one day you may need the assistance of the state or nation in order to get to where you can live independently in life.  Many people may think this is a liberal idea, many conservatives embrace this same idea as patriotism, I tend to see it as the way in which American citizens should live.  This country was founded by banding together, it will only stand by working together and helping each other out.  It is to me an American ideal.  My father may not have taught this to me as a specific lesson in life, but he did show me the examples that at this point in my life I hope to be able to pass on to my children.

I was not always an easy child, I had all the normal teenage issues, sometimes took it well beyond the extreme.  I did not enlist in the Army to carry on some great family tradition, as a matter of fact I am the only one that I know of that has actually made a career out of it.  I did it because I was at the end of my rope and reaching a point in life where I could have made some very bad choices.  I had a brand new daughter, I did not have any real career prospects and I was surviving by working enough to pay off one debt by creating another.  I enlisted in order to get my life together and try to provide and contribute rather than be a burden.

Regrettably, I do not have the relationship I would hope for with the daughter I decided to get my life together for, but that is a story for another day and an opportunity I will always remain hopeful for.  I married the love of my life just a little bit more than a year after I enlisted, we have had our ups and downs, but now have two wonderful children together that we hope we can teach well enough to contribute the same way we have learned to.  Funny thing is, while we have had our ups and downs, I saw my parents go through theirs as well and I am happy to say that just like them we have been able to move on and grow stronger.  Something I would never have been able to do without the right example, even if I was never specifically taught that particular lesson.

I have gotten many things from my father throughout the years, my work ethic, patriotism, fighting for those who cannot, occasional narrow-mindedness, yet the ability to try and see the bigger picture (does not always work, but I try), stubbornness, the ability to know the difference between someone who can be relied on and someone who is just filling space and countless other traits, good and not always good.

The man I am today is not simply because my father at one time wore a uniform.  After all these years in the Army I realize the best people that wear the uniform have the traits that make them great as part of their DNA.  It may run latent in some family lines and it may be a strong tradition, but they could be good successful people regardless of whether they have ever worn a uniform or not.

As I prepared for my 15th deployment last year, my father had to undergo a quadruple bypass.  Suddenly, the strongest person I had ever known was now at the mercy of others to take care of him.  For the first time ever in my life I had to think about his mortality, and at the same time, mine.  Gladly, all has worked out.  I made another safe trip and today my father is as near 100% as he could possibly be.  He may not be as strong as he once was physically, but in some ways he is much stronger.  As difficult as it was for him he still does not want to be a burden and he still contributes.  He will be around for a long time for my brother and me and the grandkids who love to be around him so much.

So, Happy Birthday Dad.  Thank you for pushing me and passing on the lessons in life, even those we didn’t know about until later.

Love Ya!