A Veterans Day Reflection
From an American Boy
Often times around Veteran’s day among the countless video montages of soldiers surprising their families, Facebook statuses about how “Freedom isn’t free”, and the assortment of red white and blue on display everywhere you look, I reflect on what it would be like to be in the armed forces and to have seen combat and come back a veteran of war.
In my family both my paternal Grandfather and my dad were veterans; and come to think of it, they kind of fit into the description of “All-Americans”. My grandfather was an excellent baseball player and it was said by many that if he did not go to WWII that he would have had a good shot at playing professionally. My father was class president, played college football, and served in Vietnam. Both veterans and both fitting into a larger description of the American boy/man.
Not only were those in my family veterans but most of my friends from high school also took an interest in military service. I have one friend who is a marine and saw active duty in Afghanistan, one friend who graduated from West Point and is currently training to be in the army special forces, and another friend who is an officer in the navy in flight school right now. These are all close friends, I haven’t mentioned the other high school acquaintances that are in the armed forces now.
I don’t know what was in the water around my junior year of high school but I guess it never got to me. Was this desire to join the military innately built in to them? Or was it put in their head by someone else?
I never really had a desire to join the military, even with all the people around me who did. It wasn’t that I didn’t think I could handle it, although the strict discipline and routines didn’t exactly appeal to me, it just wasn’t something that I believed was for me. The idea of how my grandfather and father had served the country and were veterans was not something that motivated me to do the same; and I never felt pressure to either. However, this veteran’s day after graduating from college and joining a National Service program I often wonder if my service is enough.
I have always had a desire to serve. Not in a military sense like some, my idea of service came from my faith. I desired to serve the Lord and to serve others. I do believe that this was instilled in me by my family.
Having this inside of me feels innate and during Veterans Day it causes me to reflect on whether or not I should’ve served in the armed forces. My initial thought is that military service is not a romantic narrative as it has been in the past. Back then military service was expected because we were involved in World Wars and there were drafts that required military service. Now the military is turning people away for things like childhood asthma and other minor health concerns. It also honestly seemed to me in high school to be the option of last resort.
It is strange to me to view the military like this in hindsight because of the realization that had I been born in a different decade I most likely would have served in the military. As I mentioned above, my dad and grandfather fit into the ideal kind of American boy concept. Well I guess what they say is true, that the apple does not fall far from the tree. In high school I played baseball (America’s pastime), I was active in Christian organizations at school and outside, I was in a fraternity in college, and a friend’s mom even one time described me as “a truly all-American looking boy”. I would’ve fit right in with my dad and grandfather with a tour of service on my life’s “resume”. However, I don’t have that and most of the time I am completely alright with that. But sometimes I do dream of the romantic idea of being a decorated veteran having gone to war and been a purveyor of freedom to the people of my country.
I know that sounds a tad egotistical but it stems from a desire to serve, a desire to help, and a desire to make the world a better place. I don’t know if it would’ve felt like that if I would have chosen to join the army but at this rate I’ll never know (barring another world war or draft). What I do know is that I still want to serve and that there are other ways to protect and provide freedom to those in need. That may come in the form of liberating those in poverty or by freeing those from racial or gender discrimination. I believe we must all pick our proverbial “battle field” and be ready to serve, and for most of us this won’t mean picking up an actual weapon. We can still serve our country and be proud Americans in that way by fighting the hard battles on the frontline of major issues our country and our world are facing.