When I was 19 years old, I had completed one semester of college and I was living with my parents. At the time, college was not ideal for me because I just wasn’t mature enough or ready for it. I was 20 miles away from my hometown so I would often, instead of studying or hanging out on campus with my peers, go home to hang out with my friends. I didn’t really understand, at the time, the opportunity I was wasting but that’s just the nature of capricious youth.
One day, after working one of my two jobs and spending my free time partying with my friends, my mother asked me “What in God’s name are you going to do with your life?” Good question but a very difficult one to answer at that age.
“Why not look into the military?” She asked, completely earnestly. I laughed quite a bit – me, in the military? That was about the funniest thing I’d heard in my life.
Not five seconds later, the phone rang and I answered. It was a man named Staff Sergeant Guy. I don’t think I’ll ever, for the life of me, forget that name. I looked at my mother skeptically – had she set this up? She looked as confused as I did.
Unconvinced she hadn’t masterminded this whole exchange and had asked me about the military as a way to soften the blow of getting the call, I decided to humor her and go talk to this Guy…guy. I got the address and set up an appointment and headed down there, intending to get a free frisbee or squishy ball and be on my merry way.
When I got to the building, I went in the first open door because it was set up like a strip mall and I wasn’t really aware of where I was supposed to be. I knew the guy’s name but I couldn’t remember which branch he said he was from. I walked into, incidentally, the Navy office and asked for Staff Sergeant Guy. They didn’t have Staff Sergeants there, they had Petty Officers, and they told me as much…but they didn’t kick me out for my ignorance. On the contrary, they poached me right then and there. Because why not?
Thus, long story short, began my illustrious career in the United States Navy.
I could sit here and map out my whole Naval career but with two children, I certainly don’t have the time, nor does the average reader. What I will say is this: the military and specifically the Navy took a kid with zero ambition or motivation and turned her into someone who actually developed dreams and goals. Not only that, but the Navy helped her formulate a way to achieve those goals. A lot of my formative young adult years were and continue to be shaped by my decision to sign on the dotted line. While I was the driving force behind the change, the military and my support system were absolutely the catalysts.
While I and many other veterans and active duty will agree that we do not court gratitude for our service, nor do we expect it, the acknowledgement is appreciated. In many cases, the military got us a jump start to a better quality of life financially, educationally, physically, mentally, and emotionally. For myself, I absolutely benefitted greatly from my time in the military – but that doesn’t mean that it was a one-way street. An honorable military service is something that should be celebrated, hence the reason for this day.
I won’t sit here and lie and say it was all sunshine and roses, nor will I denigrate the sacrifices and hardships of my fellow service members by saying as much. There are things within the military that need to be fixed and there is a lot that the Veteran’s Affairs office can and should be doing to benefit those they serve — but, for today, I choose to focus on the happier aspects as we honor those who served. A few bad experiences cannot taint the whole of the endeavor and this is particularly true in my case.
To my fellow brothers and sisters in the armed forces of our great country, I say Happy Veteran’s Day – enjoy your time with your friends and family and God bless.