I have a confession the make to you…
If you knew me in my youth, then you would know that I was one of the most UNLIKELY people to end up in uniform.
I sort of stumbled my way in to the military…
I had never really thought about signing up to serve. I was a California kid that had hopes of being a college athlete. By a sheer stroke of crazy luck, there was a coach at United States Naval Academy that knew one of my old coaches. That was the first domino that fell, among many, that led to my application and acceptance to this historic, prestigious, and (very) military college.
Little did I know what I was signing up for.
Upon reporting to my boot camp (or plebe summer as they call it at the U.S. Naval Academy) I was greeted by a steely eyed detailer. Next to him sat a female detailer, just as steely eyed and ready to whip some new recruits in to shape.
Detailer 1: “Plebe! From now on the first and last words out of your mouth will be sir or ma’am. Do you understand?”
Detailer 1: with a brief look of confusion before a grimace sets in “PLEBE!!!!! From now on the first and last words out of your mouth will be SIR or MA’AM!! DO YOU UNDERSTAND?!?!”
Me: “YES…I understand you” I said trying to make my words more clear and slow…thinking that would help.
Detailer 2: looks over at me and tries to hold back a sympathetic smile while still being steely eyed and serious
Detailer 1: with his face turning red, anger becoming visible “PLEBE!!!! The FIRST and LAST words out of your mouth from NOW ON!!…WILL BE!!! SIR OR MA’AM!!!!! DO – YOU – UN-DER-STAND!!!!”
As the word ‘UNDERSTAND’ rung in my ears it hit me…oh shit…I did not start this right.
Me: “SIR YES SIR!”
It went downhill quickly for me from there.
I tell you that story because how I came to serve is unlike most…
A Quick History of Veterans Day
On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918 an armistice between Germany and the Allied nations came into effect.
One year later, Armistice Day was commemorated for the first time by President Wilson, who proclaimed the day should be “filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory”.
Over the following decades the name changed to Veterans Day, it got moved to a different date, then got moved back…but one thing never changed.
The widespread agreement that a date to honor our military veterans was needed.
“Raise Your Right Hand and Repeat After Me”
Over the years, my perspective has drastically altered from that first day when I was yelled at for not saying Sir. I have been trained ad nauseum, deployed overseas, known people who paid the ultimate sacrifice, helped with disaster relief, and seen first hand how hard it is to wear the cloth of our nation day in and day out.
I have had the honor of swearing in both officers and enlisted. Across all branches of the military. The people I have met over the years always stun me when they talk about why they join.
So who is the kind of person that answers the call to service of our nation?
I want you to picture yourself, reading the Sunday paper (or scrolling through your newsfeed) and on the right side down at the bottom corner of the page you read this classified ad…
Wanted: In need of people who are willing to work hard. Literally!…harder than you’ve ever worked in your whole life. We will spend a lot of money training you for the highly technical job that you select. No kidding…we will actually train you to exhaustion because you may experience some stress in your workplace. Our ideal candidates must be willing to live in a tin can that floats across the world’s oceans, march for hours in far off countries and then sleep in a hole that you dig for yourself, or possibly strap yourself to a rocket with wings…with a bunch explosives attached to it. If you want to be a part of this organization it does not do political affiliations so you MUST be willing to defend not only those who love you…but also those who hate you…and those who do not understand what you do or why you do it. Anyone applying for this job must be willing to sacrifice time with their family. You must be willing to miss birthdays, family weddings, holidays, and possibly the birth of your children. But don’t worry, you may or may not be able to call home on those special days…it just depends on how “busy” things are at work.
Ask yourself….who would read that and say…huh!…sounds like a good deal. I think I’ll give them a call.
However…our veterans know that if you had kept reading and turned the page there was one last line for that ad that made it all make sense.
Continued… If these job requirements sound a little extreme…Here’s the bottom line…if you apply for this job…you must be willing to SERVE – YOUR – COUNTRY….because we are looking for soldiers, airmen, sailors, and marines.
The veterans we celebrate on November 11th are those who answered that call to service. I write here to celebrate your service and thank YOU for what you taught this California kid who just wanted to be a college athlete.
I write here to celebrate your service and thank YOU for what you have given.
Thank you for sacrificing time away from your family for months at a time.
Thank you for standing your post and missing that family wedding.
Thank you for waking up early on your birthday not to blow out candles, but to take the next watch.
And God bless those who had to miss the birth of a child.
Service to your country is sacrifice.
And I thank you, my fellow veterans, for yours.