What an Honor
What an Honor
I write these words on Veterans Day, it’s hard not to reflect on this day since I am a Veteran and so was my father. I was born on an Army base, never seemed in the least bit odd to me growing up. While I didn’t get the pleasure of being a traditional military brat, I have had my whole life intertwined with it in one way or another. My father didn’t fare too well with his two enlistments in the Army, in the end, he was 100% disabled. That’s the man I grew up knowing and visiting at the VA Hospital. I spent many a birthday there, creating a few triggers for me.
With that knowledge, I’m sure you’d find it odd that I joined the Air Force at eighteen. But it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made, though it was not thought out at all! Homelife for me wasn’t a picnic so college wasn’t working for me. I needed a faster exit strategy, a way to leave and be self-sufficient. I hadn’t ever thought about joining, not once, I just happened to be walking by a recruitment center and the timing was right. I looked at this all rather logically, didn’t do water, so the Navy was out, saw what the Army did to my Dad so that was a hard pass, wasn’t gung ho so Marine’s wasn’t even a thought, but the Air Force, I thought I could hang with that. Took the test, did well, and that’s pretty much that. Signed up, was told it would be weeks… that was a lie. LOL And the journey began a week after I signed. I was gone, flying on a plane for the first time to basic training in San Antonio, Texas, in the hottest month!
This was actually a very good thing because if I’d had time to realize what I had done I probably would have lost it. I’ve been known to get in my head and usually it doesn’t work in my favor. In this instance, no one had time to process it all until it had happened. Once you are in basic training, it’s just about getting through it. I learned the game quickly, and it was a game from the beginning to the end. Even though I was now owned completely by the US Government, I had a lot more freedom than being back home. I could finally breathe and feel safe.
My years in the Air Force taught me so much, I firmly believe that it should be mandatory for every US citizen to give to their country. I’m not gung ho, so I’m sure that sounds odd, but if I hadn’t had those years, the training, the community, the tribe, well I’m not sure I would have become as strong as I would ultimately need to be in my lifetime. I became part of something bigger than me and most of the people you met had a broader view of the world. Over time I’ve learned that perhaps that was more true in my branch than perhaps others. But there was a richness in the people around you, from everywhere, it’s own little melting pot. It all seemed so normal to me at the time, it’s only in reflection that realize how amazing the opportunities were.
It was just recently that I discovered that the Air Force had become fully integrated (male/female) six years before I joined. Wow, that’s pretty cool, it also explains a lot of the issues that existed. But being part of the early history has its cache. I’m grateful, but my biggest regret is that I took it all for granted.
Why people join the military and what brings them on that journey is can be very different, but I will say I meet more people like me that I would have expected. It was a way to a better future, a way to freedom, a way to yourself.
But the one takeaway I wish everyone understood fully, bottom line, each veteran signed on the dotted line, committing their life for their country. Some of us were luckier than others in this regard, but the commitment was the same. Perhaps, the world would be much better if every American made that level of commitment to their country. Or at least vote.