Today we celebrate our Veterans. If you are a veteran who proudly fought for the ideals and freedoms of our great country, I salute you. Thank you for your service.
From a mother’s viewpoint a military veteran begins service when he, or she, first signs the paperwork dedicating a portion of their lives to the military. Both of our sons wanted to sign up at the age of 17 and then make it official at the age of 18. I was not crazy about the idea because they were so young. I wanted them to really think about what they were signing up for. I wanted them to understand the dangers inherent in signing up for the military. Eighteen years of age is such a young age to make decisions that could affect the rest of one’s life. A decision which could possibly incur life-threatening injuries. Also, young military men and women have to face the fact that they will be away from home, family, and friends for four or more years. And with that first footstep on the bus to Boot Camp, they begin their service.
It might not seem like much to others, but when our oldest son was in Boot Camp in San Diego, we did not hear from him for weeks. This was difficult for me. He was having to face his fears, his weaknesses, and his strengths on his own. He was having to find out who he was without his parents hanging around. There might have been times he needed to talk or wanted re-assurance but we were unavailable. When the second son joined, Boot Camp was easier in a way, but I had other fears for him. I knew he would live through the crucible week and the gas chamber experience because he was pumped for it, but in the meantime the oldest had gone to Iraq and had returned. I was just beginning to understand what service truly meant for my sons.
At the Boot Camp ceremony for our younger son, I was reminded of this early service when my two boys sat at the table discussing experiences. One, at the ripe old age of 24, felt that he had seen it all and that he was behind the boys of his youth while the other was anxious to get started on the adventure. As I sat between two United States Marines, I couldn’t have been prouder. They gave up the very first years of their adulthood to serve. One missed the funeral of his grandfather and the other missed going to the college of his choice.
Too often we forget that service begins when the decision to join the military is made. Sometimes the service can’t be seen as they prepare themselves mentally to leave their homes and live in a barracks with total strangers. When a parent watches as their long-haired, slouchy, teen marches in perfectly straight rows across the parade ground to stand at attention before the crowd – totally transformed, their service to their country is fully in place.
Some will go to foreign countries and fight horrible fights. Others will work from bases around the country. Some will train on weekends and summers. Some will be injured in Boot Camp and others will never make it home. Some will lose their limbs and eyesight while others will struggle mentally to overcome their experiences. All served. All deserve to be honored.
On this Veterans Day I say thank you to my sons for their service. I say thank you to soldiers who left their spouses and children behind on the day they flew out. I say thank you to the ones who are returning from arduous deployments and I say thank you to the ones waiting to go. I say thank you to the soldiers in rehab centers and counseling centers around the country. I say thank you to the ones who came home and joined the police force to continue serving and I say thank you to the ones who sit behind the desks keeping it all going.
Thank you for your service to our country.