Reflecting On Veterans Day

I shipped out for basic a few months before my 18th birthday. My service wasn’t heroic or brave or even selfless, I enlisted to escape. That plane ride to Fort Sill Oklahoma saved me from a dark path and offered me the possibility of something better. The G.I. Bill put me through college where I met my wife and started my career in tech. As a high school teacher, when my students found out I had been in the Army, they would ask me about it. I taught in a poor rural school. The military was an out for many in the community, as it once was for me. However, I served in peacetime, Somalia not withstanding. Serving in war time, with Iraq and Afghanistan facing my students right after basic meant something else entirely. And so I would tell them that enlisting was the best decision for me at the time but that the biggest threat I ever faced during my tour was of a Soviet invasion of southern Germany in 1992 and the Great Flood of 1993.

I never told them, but in truth, 17 year old me really wanted to go to war. Too much G.I. Joe as a kid, I guess. I wanted to enlist after Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990 but my parents wouldn’t allow it. I had to wait the year out until finally my mom signed the paperwork that sent me on my way. And so I never did get to go to war, instead I learned all about mechanical, electrical and hydraulic systems, drove every wheeled and tracked vehicle in the Army’s inventory, ran paintball scenarios with a bunch of rear echelon paper pushers and ETS’d out after my first enlistment to go to college. Had it not been for that councilor at Rock Island Arsenal, I probably would have accepted my PCS orders to South Korea and eventually I would have seen war first hand, if only as a mechanic.

As I watch the happy veteran’s day tweets pile on today, I’m reminded that I got more out of the experience of serving than I ever put in and for that I will always be grateful. And so today, to my fellow veterans who served and to those who continue to carry the weight of our nation’s safety on your shoulders, I solute you.