November 11, 2004

Some People Aren't Gonna Like My Attitude...

I know I’m definitely in the minority…and that’s a good thing, I guess…but I just never felt Veteran’s Day was something I needed to have. It makes me uncomfortable in a way...like being publicly recognized for something someone else did in a much bigger way (like the Armorer).

Yeah, I’m a veteran, but the 4 years I spent at a Service academy and the 26 I spent on active duty were not always the most pleasant, especially for the family. That is my one principal regret...military wives and kids shouldn't have to put up with half the crap they do.

But I’d do it again. In a heartbeat. Because someone had (has) to do it.

I initially joined for esoteric, and selfish, reasons—I thought the USA was a pretty nice place to live. But, really, what did I know? My only overseas experience had been in Spain at an age when I didn’t have a clue anyway. I had an inkling the Founders had really come up with something worth defending but, again, this was sort of a reflected opinion—my parents’—that rubbed off on me without too much rigorous analysis.

And I wanted to fly. It’s fun, learning to fly jets, and the price was right. They had my body, but they were paying me, not the reverse, as it is in general or commercial aviation.

The more time I spent around the world, however, the more I realized how truly fortunate we are. The esoteric gave way to the concrete…we really DO have a good deal, and I wanted my kid, and everyone else’s kid in America, to enjoy it. Staying in seemed like a concrete way to contribute to those chances.

I never really thought about getting killed or wounded, not too much anyway. I’ve had friends who’ve died and left kids behind…and am incapable of understanding, much less expressing, what that really means. Suffice it to say I cannot imagine the pain a wife, son, daughter or parent feels when they get that visit from the casualty notification officer. It never goes away, of course.

Was it worth it? The departed evidently thought so, and so too do the majority of their survivors, I think.

Wow.

And how many countries routinely give up their citizens for the sake of total strangers…foreigners, no less?

Americans, by and large, think the sacrifice is worth it (see recent reelection results). Maybe that’s self-interest…liberated countries are, ostensibly, less of a long-term threat…but how much more selfless can sacrifice unto death be?

So, by the time I retired, I felt what I did was the least I could do, especially for the guys and gals are but memories now, had at one time run to the sound of the guns, overcoming all rational thought to achieve great things and preserve precious things for their fellows, their families and those they would never know.

So, I sort of shy away from Veterans Day. I don’t want thanks. I just want people to understand…every day, not just one day…how fortunate they are and the responsibility they have, as citizens, to preserve, protect and defend this planet’s last, best hope. Not America, but the idea of America.

Besides, I believe in my heart of hearts, the only true gift one can give is the one for which no thanks is expected.

Some people don’t get it. Some people do. I’m OK with both.

No thanks necessary for me. Express it to those who truly deserve it. My "sacrifices" are not one quintillionth of what theirs were.

Godspeed to all who read this…whatever your persuasion.

Instapilot

Comments on Some People Aren't Gonna Like My Attitude...
Chris Van Dis briefed on November 11, 2004 01:52 PM

Actually, I agree with you completely, only more so. I look up to people like you who were able to make it through to retirement. I only went 8 years, with only 4 of those on deploying submarines. I joined because from the age of 12 or 13 it seemed like what I was meant to do. I also wanted to fly. I had the athleticism, the reflexes, and the drive, but unfortunately not the eyesight. So I volunteered for the Navy and for submarines and learned to make hot water from hot rocks and live on 17% oxygen for months on end. I got out because I missed blue sky and my family, and wanted to settle down somewhere. It was 1999, and submarines were getting fewer in number, and it just didn't look like America needed or wanted my services anymore. I got married 4 days after the towers fell. I would love to enlist again, but my wife isn't cut out for being a military spouse. So I live with the guilt, and try to consol myself with the fact that some of my tax money buys bullets and beans. My wife thinks I am nuts for feeling this way.

John of Argghhh! briefed on November 11, 2004 09:41 PM

Dusty - ya give me too much credit, man.

I only did the Vet thing because I was invited, and I'm not about to turn down a ride in a Brit (or Russian, or anyone's) armored car!

Hell, it was nice to know that I could still fit in one. As long as I didn't have to get in and out quickly, that is...

SangerM briefed on November 11, 2004 09:49 PM

No need to feel guilty. People are serving. You have served. No one is required to give more than another, though many of us do and have. Live not with guilt at quitting too soon, or with too little experience, but rather with the pride of having served in the first place. Time passes, and as it does, those who follow take up the banners and weapons of those who came before. There is no shame in living your life in a country you helped defend when it was your turn.

And too, be honest with yourself; things are not yet so dire that the country _needs_ your services, or the services of the others of us who have served, in whatever capacity. Were it otherwise, you would just have to stand in line with all the rest of us, I am sure.

And if it's any consolation, personally, I always feel a bit guilty that I spent 14 years in the Army and was only shot at one time (for screwing around near East Germany when I shouldn't a been). I never wore a combat patch, yet I spend every day among people who wear several kinds of devices, from tridents to crossed arrowheads, from HALO to Deep-sea diver badges, and almost to a person (men and women, officer and enlisted) they have been to combat. Often, I feel small among them, less like I deserve to have a voice at their table, but I did indeed serve when I could, and that counts, even among them. And although it is a poor consolation prize sometimes, we did win the Cold War, and I did participate in that war (having spent 3+ years out of 6 in Germany right on and around the Czech & East German borders).

So don't despair or feel guilty. We all took the same oath. We all placed our fates in the hands of the people of the United States, and even though some of were never called to battle, it doesn't mean we weren't ready or willing. And my friend, that counts for everything!

Be at ease and enjoy your life. You did your part.

-SangerM


Instapilot briefed on November 11, 2004 10:05 PM

Sanger--it's not guilt (a slight tinge of envy maybe). It's more a feeling of: "I did my duty and now it's time to move on." And the envy thing is more facetiousness than fact. I don't begrudge anyone their glory/success/recognition either. I'm glad they have parades and I'm DAMN glad they have parades with Vietnam Vets in 'em. Their treatment post-war was the one true stain on our country from that conflict. MY reward is knowing I can look my daughter in the eye and say, "I did my duty and I earned my right to be called...'citizen'."

John--Trust me, I'm delighted you got to do that. God knows you earned it. Hell, you know that if they offered my the #4 slot in a missing man flyby I'd jump at the chance. As far as fitting in the greens is concerned, problem is Michelin used a shot of me in a flight suit as the model for their Tire Man. Not pretty...

SangerM briefed on November 11, 2004 10:30 PM

Instapilot!! I am so very sorry! My msg was in response to Chris Van Dis msg at the top of this comment thread, NOT to your post.

In fact, I feel like you do, a LOT. I am a vet, sure, but as I wrote, I don't feel right acting the part when so many did so much more and still are. I know it's silly but that's me.

Again, please excuse my lack of netiquette for not saying who I was responding to.

-V/R
SangerM

Instapilot briefed on November 11, 2004 10:38 PM

Sanger--Kein Problem...

Aren't conservatives polite? Makes ya proud...

cw4billt briefed on November 11, 2004 11:04 PM

Guys,

If you have been there and done that--even if you didn't qualify for the mug, the T-shirt or the plaque--you have accomplished something that few of our fellow citizens can fully understand, although the vast majority truly appreciate.

Feel satisfaction for what we have done.

Feel sadness for those we have lost.

Feel royally ticked that we can't be hovering over and protecting the youngest members of our growing brotherhood...

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