posted by Matt W on November 14th, 2014

Serving your country comes in many forms; we all have the opportunity to serve our country on a daily basis. But as we just celebrated Veterans Day, this is a time to hold our troops above the rest and celebrate the amazing contribution each person has made for our country serving in the Armed Forces. As with Joe A., my life is full of people who have kept our nation safe through military service.

My father served in the Navy right after the Korean War. He doesn’t talk about it all that much. When I was in high school I learned from my grandmother on my mother’s side (which was weird) that his plane went over the side of the aircraft carrier after missing the cable in high seas. Two of the four crew members did not survive. Many years later, my father told me about the man who saved him in a casual conversation while at work. I guess it was just the right time for him to talk about it, and in a rare moment of enlightenment, I just kept my mouth shut.

When I went back to college to finish my undergraduate degree, I became good friends with a Marine that in his four years of service saw four different tours of duty. I mentioned that he must be really good at what he did to see so much duty (he was a radio operator), and in a typical Marine response he said “We’re Marines, we are all the best at what we do.” The one comment he made that has always stuck with me was about his tour in Somalia. He said,”There was always a rifle aimed at me whenever I left base; always.” I tend to remember those words when I’m stressed about a work deadline and recognize that I don’t even have a concept of what stress really is.

I have a nephew that is an F-22 pilot. My brother-in-law was a Marine pilot for 25 years. Classmates of mine in high school went to West Point and Annapolis. My cousin was in the Navy, and my uncle, his father was in the Coast Guard and Reserve for over 30 years. And one of my favorite times was spending multiple evenings in a fishing lodge after long days of fishing with a retired B-52 pilot (He flew on the first and last B-52 flight) and listening to all his amazing stories while he made me gin and tonics.

I would like to conclude with my son. He was struggling with his life for a few years after high school and turned to the military for some direction. It has been a great decision for him. I saw my son at Navy boot camp graduation and my first thought was he looks happy and healthy for the first time in awhile. As he finishes his training to operate nuclear reactors on aircraft carriers and goes out into the fleet, I thank the Navy for not only protecting our seas but also giving my son direction and purpose.

Thanks to all that have served, I truly appreciate your efforts to protect our great nation.

(Originally posted November 14, 2012)

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