As I reflect on Veterans Day I have mixed emotions. I appreciate and honor those that have gone before me but I don’t feel comfortable being “thanked for my service.”
If you don’t know me very well, I am a veteran. I served on Active Duty in the Army for two enlistments for a total of 6 years, 5 months, and 23 days. I didn’t retire. My first four years I was assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division in forward support of the 3rd Infantry Brigade. Although I was in logistics, we went to the field every time one of our battalions went to the field. We jumped out of planes and did the “high-speed” Army stuff that comes with an Airborne Infantry Division assignment. We were on an hour recall for weeks on end (before the age of cell phones), and did all the “fun stuff” that comes with being in the military. I deployed in support of Operation Desert Shield/Storm and found myself in Iraq just a short mile behind the front line. So my military experience wasn’t exactly Delta Force, but I wasn’t a “PowerPoint Ranger” either – but rather somewhere in the middle. So that’s my story and frame of mind as I write this…..
As I reflect on being a veteran, I don’t feel “worthy” when compared to the generations before me. As I compare my service to those involved in World War I, World War II, Vietnam, Korea and other “engagements” I don’t feel my sacrifice compares to theirs. We weren’t living in trenches (for the most part), marching for miles in all kind of conditions, and I NEVER was faced with hand to hand combat. Today’s soldier has power, “clean” (disinfected non-potable) running water, decent food (MRE’s aren’t THAT bad when compared to previous generations had to eat), Internet, and even able to call home.
I’m not saying that soldiers today don’t have it rough. I deployed to Afghanistan as a contractor for 14 months beginning in late 2012, and as I traveled around that country, I saw and experienced the conditions many still have to face on a daily basis. Afghanistan (and now Iraq) is not a safe place – even if you never leave the FOB. Incoming rockets, “Green on Blue” attacks, IEDs, VBIEDs, and many other challenges face the soldiers today – especially ones going “outside the wire.” At least the previous generations knew who were the “good guys” and “bad guys.” Soldiers are still paying the Ultimate Sacrifice and many others face very dangerous situations on a daily basis.
I will thank every veteran for their service because it is a sacrifice, I do know that from experience. As I reflect on the conditions and experiences of the generations before me – I stand in awe of what they sacrificed for our country and I am eternally grateful for what they did so I can sit at my computer and type these words.