No, that's not the opening salvo in a military/SciFi story I'm penning. This was a real-life event that I experienced (eons ago) one sweltering early afternoon during Basic Training. Something occurred that day that changed my view on, what seemed to me at the time, a very simple topic: what it meant to serve your country.
Everyone that serves in the Armed Forces does so for one reason or another. It's definitely not the same for all, but more often than not it's one or more of the following: to serve your country, to take advantage of offered education benefits, to gain structure or discipline, etc. Whatever the reason may be, it typically falls somewhere within those categories - and I respect them all without question. But what I failed to comprehend all those years ago, until that afternoon, was the reason my country needed me to serve.
So to continue my little intro...
The lights suddenly lowered and images of soldiers, past and present, in wartime and peace, being honored at ceremonies and posthumously at memorial services, clicked on a projector at the front of the room to patriotic music. Now, I know what you're saying - kinda corny. I thought so, too, as did probably most of my squadron at the time. But then, at the end of the presentation, a single image of the American flag remained on the screen. While nothing new to my eyes, nor to that of my squadron-mates obviously, for some reason it suddenly dawned on me at that very moment what had eluded me for 18 years. I knew what it meant - to me.
Our instructor then spoke, and asked each of us to take a few moments silently to reflect on what it meant no only to be an American, but more specifically what it meant to be in the Armed Forces and defending the freedom of this - the greatest nation in the history of mankind.
It sounded like a simple question. But you can't understand until you are put on the spot how much that simple question can force you to reach deep within and reveal something that you weren't aware you had. You see, it's not as trivial as asking your favorite color, or asking who your sports idol is. No, this is a fundamental question that all American service men and women should ask themselves every day.
What does it mean to you to be in the Armed Services?
On this glorious day of celebrating the American Armed Services Veteran, of which I am a proud member of that brotherhood, I pose that question to you. Take a moment and reflect upon what it means to you, and how it has not only affected your life, but how it has potentially enriched the lives of millions upon millions of Americans to come. Regardless of your political affiliations or leanings, regardless of whether you agree with our government's policies or practices, and regardless of whether you truly love your neighbor
To all of those that are serving this proud nation, to all of those that have served in the past - whether in measure of time, or ultimately, life - I salute you.
Oh yeah – and to those veterans and non-veterans alike who have read my work – do a Vet a favor and leave a review!