I wrote this on Veteran’s Day 2016 and thought I would share it here.
We were young. We joined because we wanted to serve, because we were idealists. We joined because we wanted help paying for college. To help insure the safety of our nation, our friends, families and loved ones. We joined because we were bored. To run away from home. To see the world. To give something back to our country. To provide for the people we care about. For adventure. To stay out of jail. Because we just didn’t know what the hell else to do with our lives. We served because we could, and so that the rest of you wouldn’t have to.
Whatever our reasons we served our country. We put our lives at risk for our people, our government, our way of life. We served alongside people of all races, all backgrounds, from all different parts of our nation. We met people from other countries and learned what it meant to be a foreigner. We met people who hated us, who loved us, who needed us. Who were glad we were there even while they resented our presence. It changes how you see people, your country, your world.
We learned things. How to survive. How to try as hard as we can, how to push ourselves beyond our limits. Learned to have each other’s backs, even if we didn’t like or understand each other. We learned what we were capable of, and what we could do together. How to live, how to die, even how to kill. That changes a person.
Then we came back. Some of us came back stronger, prouder, more complete. Some of us came back broken in body, in spirit, in soul; with wounds that never quite stop bleeding. Now you look us in the eye, shake our hand and thank us for our service, and you have no idea what that means… and what it cost.
Which is as it should be. Because in the end, no matter why we joined, we served so that you wouldn’t have to know. So that our world would not become your world.
Today, on Veteran’s Day, I say this to my fellow veterans- and I say it as someone that does know- Thank you for your service.