I was lucky to be a child of the late '70's, which means none of my contemporaries had to serve during time of war or in a war zone. While many of them volunteered, and there is never any guarantee that a war won't break out on any given day, their service was focused on preserving peace. On protecting us.
My oldest brother volunteered for Viet Nam twice, but I was too young to understand the danger or the effect it had on him.
I'm older now, and while still experiencing it mostly second-hand, I understand a little better about the sacrifice and the effects of deployment in war zones through my son-in-law's service in the Air Force, as well as clients of mine who have served. It makes me marvel even more at the apparent ease of that many war-time veterans experienced when stepping back into civilian life after witnessing death and destruction.
In gratitude to all of you who have served, or who continue to serve, here's my annual tribute about my own favorite veterans. All too often we take your service and sacrifices for granted. Thanks for serving anyway.
"Lord, if your people need me, I will not refuse the work. Your will be done."
~St. Martin of Tours
My dad was in high school when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. He joined the Navy soon after high school graduation because his country was at war and "it was the thing to do."
In the next twenty-two months he traveled a long way from Texas aboard the U.S.S. Geneva...to places like the Philippines, the Marshall Islands, China, Burma, Japan.
Before he turned twenty, he had seen cities that had been destroyed by war and piles of dead bodies waiting to be buried.
A few years later, his little brother Bobby followed his lead and joined the Navy, and many years later, so did my brother Donnie and two nephews.
Pop, my wonderful father-in-law, missed out on World War II, but joined the Air Force in time for the Korean War. He worked base supply in Okinawa, supporting bombers flying missions to Korea...about 100 aircraft every day.
He re-enlisted, got married, and hopped around the globe...living in England, Germany, and over a year in Pakistan, separated from his family (the other heroes - Mom had 8 teenage and younger boys to deal with by herself!)...visiting a dozen other countries...eventually staying put for awhile in Maryland, working with NSA (and a second job at the bowling alley to make ends meet), until his retirement.
A lifetime of service and sacrifice for this country.
My husband Tom was raised in that military family. For him it was normal to move every few years to someplace completely different...by the time he was eight or nine years old, he had lived in three countries!
He grew up on a tight budget ... hand-me-downs, powdered milk and only two cookies a day...period! And yet as soon as he could, he joined the service...the Coast Guard. Among other things, he helped rescue fisherman off the coast of Alaska.
Four of his brothers also joined the service (three career Air Force, just like their dad, and another Coast Guard) and the youngest joined the Army Reserves. Now the next generation is following in their footsteps: two Air Force and one Coast Guard, plus numerous cousins, nieces, and nephews who serve.
My big brother Buster was headed to Viet Nam, saying his goodbyes, when I stood beside him in this photograph and smiled. I had no idea what was ahead of him. This was probably taken before his first tour of duty and so he had only a vague idea himself what to expect.
When he volunteered for his second tour, however, he knew full well what he was stepping into...but he did it anyway...
...like so many before him did, and many after him continue to do... like my son-in-law. He followed in the footsteps of his parents, who were both in the military. I know it's tough, living with so many unknowns, but it's a calling.
To him and all of the Veterans - and their families - I give thanks... for their determination, their sacrifice, and their bravery.
"This nation will remain the land of the free only so long as it is the home of the brave."