Friday, November 11, 2016

What Veteran's Day Means to Me

Every year, there seems to be a misconception about what Veteran's Day is all about. Folks seem to be getting Memorial Day and Veteran's Day mixed up.

For me, ever since I was a child, I knew I wanted to be in the military. I built many a model ship, dreaming of one day captaining one. In cowboy movies, I was always drawn toward the US Cavalry with their snazzy blue jackets and bright yellow gloves.

In High School, I took Junior ROTC--Air Force JROTC. I developed a love of planes, but alas, my height and my nearsightedness (from reading too many military books no doubt) precluded me from any flying future. I turned my attention to the Special Forces, dreaming of one day helping freedom fighters in far away lands as a Green Beret. But, I have this thing about heights, and Spec Ops guys seem to love jumping out of perfectly good airplanes...

By graduation, I was enamored with law enforcement. The idea of protecting America's coastlines really appealed to me, and I set out to join the Coast Guard. A lack of a job guarantee from the recruiters was enough to convince me to circle back to the USAF, where in 1990 I joined up as a future Security Policeman (now called Security Forces).

During my four years of service, during Desert Storm and the early 1990s, I learned a lot about the reality of military service. Of the sacrifices service members make on a daily basis. Little sacrifices, not just the ultimate ones.

On Memorial Day, we remember those who paid the ultimate price for our freedom. Fighters who preserved our right to vote for our leaders, or stomp around in the streets like crybabies when elections don't turn out the way they wanted. But Veteran's Day is for those who served--dead or alive today. Those who sacrificed on a daily basis for the freedoms so many of you take for granted every day.

I'm talking about more than voting freedoms. I'm talking about the freedom to call in sick from work if you feel triggered. I'm talking about the freedom to voice your opinion for all to hear. I'm talking about the freedom to go where you want, when you want. Service members don't always have those freedoms.

"Sarge, I'm upset about the election. I think I'll stay in the barracks today..." won't get you very far in any branch of service. Nor can you just jump in the car and go drive to Stonehenge one weekend because you're stationed only a thousand miles away. Being in the military is voluntary enslavement--being at the beck and call of Uncle Sam, and doing your job when you're told. It can mean living somewhere cold and inhospitable you wouldn't want to even visit. It can mean going without McDonald's or Starbucks for months on end.

Being in the military is in itself a sacrifice. A surrendering of the freedoms the rest of America enjoys, precisely so that they can enjoy them.

This Veteran's Day, I salute my fellow veterans--those that served before or after me, or those who continue to serve today. Thank you for keeping America free, and for sacrificing for that freedom.