Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Happy Veteran’s Day.

I want you to know that I appreciate your service.  People say that shit all the time, I know, but I really mean it.  I do.  You have no idea.
Life is great.  We live in an amazing country.  If folks are not smart enough to figure that out and take advantage, I don’t know what to tell you.  America is a wonderful, beautiful, amazing place, and I don’t know, maybe it’s just me, but I find myself wondering at times if maybe you don’t need to spend a little time overseas to properly appreciate what we have here at home.  Granted, I only spent time in Korea, and it was hardly the worst of the available choices—the biggest danger we faced was alcohol poisoning—but still… I came back with a finely tuned appreciation for what makes America great.

It is truly unbelievable.

Me and my mom, the day I got home from Korea.
Let’s be clear: the reason that I appreciate your service so much is that I did not dig it over there.  TV shows and the thanks of a grateful nation notwithstanding, it’s not glamorous work you guys are doing.
I’ll be the first to admit that the comradeship of the profession of arms is second to none.  Still, it is a lonely existence.  The hours are grueling, your best girl (or guy) is nowhere near, and the conditions are at times sub-human.  I’m not talking about when you’re in combat.  I mean the other times, like when you’re simply up for four days straight on some crazy field problem because your damned Movement to Contact turned into a Deliberate Defense, and now the fucking bulldozers are digging in the wrong place.  Whatever.  I don’t know what the kids are doing out on field problems these days, but I would bet a mortgage payment that it hasn’t gotten easier.  When I go to Michie Stadium now, the cadets are all out there with metal detectors scanning the crowd for bombs.  Those kids have challenging times in their futures.
This is why I am saying thank you.  On its best day, the work of command—of being in charge—is energy intensive and isolating.  I found it exhausting.  Thank you for doing this difficult, often dangerous work that I did not make a career but for which you have continually volunteered and re-volunteered.  For going to Bosnia or Kosovo or Kuwait or Iraq or Afghanistan or Haiti or Liberia or yes, even Korea.  For going God knows where in the next ten years.
I have an awesome life.  We have an awesome country.  
This is not 100% because of the work of Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines, but that work is necessary.  The peace and prosperity of Western Civilization is only possible because our military projects power overseas.  They enforce an international framework of society and law, holding the forces of chaos at bay.  Cynics may choose to misunderstand the reality of the thing, but their misunderstanding changes nothing.  This past year has proven, if such proof was needed, that the forces of greed and discontent never die.  They are simply intimidated back into submission, allowing the peaceful portion of humanity to go on building the future.
We build that future at home.  You keep us safe while we do it.
Me and my dad at Jump School, 1993.
It can be awkward when people say, “Thank you for your service.”  I know.  Understand, they’re not thanking you, personally.  They’re giving thanks for an abstraction, for America.  Think of your fallen, and smile, and say whatever you have to say.  
I always think of my father.  He’s gone now, but his service will never die.
Happy Veteran’s Day.  For the love of God and all that’s holy, let’s BEAT NAVY!

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