In this current era of our Nation everything tends to circle around the “me/now” generations. From cellphone selfies, to the shopping cart bully in Walmart, to the super amplified noise polluting bass “music” in the car driving by; all are pointers to everything being completely egocentric. Where do the people that serve in the United States military come from and why do they serve?
Who are these people that we honor on Veterans Day? Pay attention you “Grammar Police.” It is not written Veteran’s or Veterans’ Day. It is Veterans Day and is a day for veterans, not a day belonging to veterans as is clear in the official proclamation. Veterans Day is for honoring all those who have served or are serving. It once was known as Armistice Day and was for honoring WWI veterans. A WWII veteran from Alabama, back in 1946, started a movement to include all veterans in the Armistice Day observance. Memorial Day, in contrast, is reserved specifically for those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our nation and is in their memory.
Why are these personnel now serving or why have they served? Why did they choose to become become a veteran? I have the answer for why I served and each and every veteran has his or her own personal reason for serving. Some joined out of heartfelt patriotism. Some joined out of a sense of adventure or for the challenges that were offered. Some really did join to see the world and others joined to leave behind the life they were leading. You can look at the recruiting commercials and see that the draw of an education, a skill, and great adventures is very compelling.
I will tell you one thing it is not. It is not that they could not do better. It is not that they needed a life of imposed discipline where the mother service provided all their needs and told them what to do. Nothing infuriated me more than to hear the sanctimonious pronouncement that “they could not hold a job, so the military is all they could do.” This dismissal of the skill and professionalism of the service shows the ignorance of those who pronounce it. You will find the United States military is composed of the world’s most technically advanced and highly educated and trained professionals. In some cases it IS rocket science.
Now I will answer the question. Why should you become a veteran? Foremost, it is the right thing to do. It is a civic privilege. Service to our nation becomes a commitment to it for a lifetime. You write a blank check to serve the nation. That is a selfless commitment. There is also a fulfilment in the serving that belongs to no other group. There is a camaraderie with your shipmates that develops. There is a brotherhood of warriors that will last a lifetime. There is the satisfaction, that in a time when our nation suffered the selfish to prosper, you stood on the wall and you stood the watch. You do not have to do anything heroic. Serving, in and of itself, is heroic. You don’t do it for the thanks and recognition. Such recognitions are things that become bonuses and frills to your service. A veteran will develop a mind that you were honored to have served. Being a veteran is the ultimate mark of citizenship.
Finally, what President John F Kennedy said about serving in the Navy (My branch of service, by the way) can be equally applied to each and every branch of the United States military:
“I can imagine no more rewarding a career. And any man who may be asked in this century what he did to make his life worthwhile, I think can respond with a good deal of pride and satisfaction: ‘I served in the United States Navy.'”
President John F. Kennedy, 1 August 1963, in Bancroft Hall at the U. S. Naval Academy.
[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: John F. Kennedy, Containing the Public Messages, Speeches, and Statements of the President, January 1 to November 22, 1963 (Washington: US Government Printing Office, 1964), 620]
That is all. A special thank you to those who served or are serving. Carry on!
Haze Gray and Underway
Paul Clark, CPO, USN (ret)
If you have served in the military, check out “Together We Served”