An ode to my own, and to greater service...
|I am retired U.S. Air Force. I am proud of my service. I was lucky enough (blessed, really) to never serve in a war zone…
I was raised during the Viet Nam war. As a boy, I watched in fascination, and sometimes in fear, the daily reports of the fighting, the reports of casualties. As the end of the war approached, I was afraid I would be drafted. None of my friends wanted to go. Neither did I. My Dad told me to join the Air Force or the Navy to avoid the draft. I didn’t have to join. The draft ended three months before my 18th birthday.
Time moved on. I met and married the love of my life and we soon had a child on the way. I joined the Air Force as a career move, to secure our future. It was the best thing I could have done. They took a punk kid and helped him become a man.
Our tours of duty took us many places, both in the U.S. and around the world. My job involved combat communications for most of my career. We worked hard, often deploying with Army and Marine communicators, but it was mostly during peacetime, when no U.S. forces were engaged in active combat, at least publicly. Oh, there were a few exceptions (Libya, Granada, Panama, etc.), but I was not involved in those actions. I was in the last quarter of my career by the time Desert Storm rolled around. I was stationed in Guam. I did volunteer to go; I felt an obligation to do so, but the troops we sent to deal with Iraq succeeded so quickly, I never deployed. I retired a few years later.
Later, I started to work as a federal civilian employee at a large law enforcement organization. After moving to work in Washington, D.C., I started physical therapy (PT) for a back injury at the large Naval hospital in Bethesda, MD (formerly Walter Reed). Those visits were life changing, and not just for the healing I received from the PT.
The room where my PT occurred was bounded on one side by a glass wall. On my side, the patients appeared to be retirees or dependents, each with varying degrees of injuries or ailments being treated by the staff. The other side was different. On that side, the staff were treating those who had been injured in combat.
I saw service members, both men and women walking on crutches, with no apparent injuries. I also saw people missing arms and legs, some missing multiple limbs. No charitable organization commercial or news story had as much impact as being in the next room, seeing the injuries, the extent of the sacrifices these men and women had freely made. I was humbled, and yet very proud that we had folks willing to brave so much for something they believed in.
I have always respected law enforcement personnel. In my years with the agency that respect has grown. It goes without saying that I respect those that serve and have served in our military. I never saw combat, but I am honored to be associated with those that have, if even in a small way. I go out of my way now to thank those that do so or have done so. When I see a service member or law enforcement officer, any first responder, I go up and say, “Thank you for your service.” I don’t care where I am at the time.
As I said, I was blessed to never serve in combat. I know there are no words, no platitudes I can offer that will ever display a depth of understanding of what those who did have gone through. What I can do is be grateful; and though I will never be able to adequately express that gratitude, it is still there. And given the horrible ways in which our law enforcement officers are now treated, I hope you will not be offended if I include them here.
To all, I salute you. Please know that you are loved and respected, that your sacrifices have not been forgotten, that they matter.
From one veteran to another, from one law enforcement employee to all others…
Prompt: Honoring our Veterans