Veterans’ Day

Today is Veterans’ Day, an opportunity for Americans to give thanks to those who have served in the armed forces. Like Lincoln said in the Gettysburg Address, “It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.” Our very existence as a nation is owed to those willing to serve and sacrifice for us.

I am not a veteran, although I thought for a long time in my late teens and early 20s that I would make a career of military service. My family isn’t one where such service is a tradition- my maternal grandfather was a naval officer during WWII, and my father was in the Army in the early 1960s, but neither spoke fondly of their time in the service. Nonetheless, I was convinced as a kid that I would be in the Navy, and after Top Gun came out, well, obviously naval aviation was the way to go!

When I started college, I joined the Navy ROTC unit at San Diego State, but my early college years were not exactly shining examples of academic achievement and I lasted only one year at SDSU. I went to community college for 18 months and rebuilt my GPA, then transferred to a school without an ROTC unit. “No problem!” I thought. “I’ll go to Officer Candidate School instead.” After I graduated I took the test for OCS, and while I passed my scores were not quite high enough to really be competitive, so I decided I could enlist and try for OCS from the ranks. By this time, though, I was looking towards the Coast Guard instead of the Navy. I took the ASVAB and scored well enough that I had my choice of MOS, even had the enlistment papers in my hand, but came to the conclusion that, at 25, I’d passed the age where the military was right for me.

I don’t regret reconsidering military service, but do occasionally wonder what my life would have been like if I’d served. My brush with the service has left me with an increased respect for those who did choose to serve and a great appreciation for what they do, particularly in our post-9/11 world. While I don’t always agree that what our civilian leadership sends our sons and daughters to do counts as “protecting America’s freedoms,” I always appreciate that those sons and daughters go into harm’s way because they believe that America is worth fighting for.

They’re right: America is worth fighting for, whether we do it in uniform overseas or here, in polling places, schools, and office buildings. Let’s honor those who serve and those who have lost their lives in service to our country. To quote Lincoln again,

It is for us, the living, rather to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they have, thus far, so nobly carried on. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us – that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they here gave the last full measure of devotion – that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain; that this nation shall have a new birth of freedom; and that this government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Thank you, veterans, for your service.

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