Here it is, time for what seems to be my annual essay on Veterans Day. Having been a blogger since the inception of the J&P Cycles Blog, a pattern has emerged regarding national holidays with any military connection. Give it to Scott, he’s a vet, he can do it. As a United States Marine Corps veteran, I’m honored to be given the challenge to write about these holidays. I’ve just re-read the past offerings that have been posted, so I don’t repeat my ramblings. Today, I’m going to examine the reasons I chose to enter military service.
As a young man, I came from a family whose father and numerous uncles had been in the service. I was very aware that the cost of freedom was not bought and paid for in dollars and cents. I knew the price was blood. As a 17-year-old I faced that realization (you can say the words, but it’s a huge difference looking down the barrel of a gun), weighed all the positive benefits, and signed on the bottom line…..
I was still in high school when I made the decision to become a Marine. My father, who had been in the Navy in WWII was supportive, yet cautious about my interests. I wasn’t much of a wildman in high school. I maintained decent grades, but wasn’t interested in going to college (yet). I had no kind of training or trade, and I ended up trading a few years of service to help in that regard, and to qualify for the GI Bill. The GI bill helped with college tuition for returning Veterans. There are many other additional benefits of having served my country. They helped me buy my first house, there are Veteran hospitals who care for any service-related illnesses and because I was injured during my time of service, they took time to retrain me in a profession allowing me to use my skills. Yup, it’s the government’s fault I’m working here at J&P. Who’d a thunk….
Here almost 40 years later, I look back on my time on active duty, and am absolutely amazed at how much that decision impacted my life. I am the man I am today – in my marriage, my vocation, my values and everything else about me – has been directly linked to the fateful day I was sworn in as a Marine. Many who joined the service have paid the ultimate price and are not able to share their tale. What I did that day was roll the dice, betting I would survive, and be able to reap the benefits that being in the military would provide for me. I risked my life and well-being, and I am pleased to say my gamble paid off. I’m now in my 50’s, and I regularly see older gentlemen who are members of our town’s American Legion and AMVets post. I’m one of the younger guys associated with these groups and I see many older vets who are becoming scarcer as time goes by. I make it a point to honor them every day of the year, not just Veterans Day. This holiday is for everyone to make time to honor these older guys who have also rolled the dice and won. My son’s school has a program every year where they ask veterans to join them in an assembly to honor their service. I have to admit, each time I participate, the hair on the back of my neck gets tingly and I never fail to become a bit emotional over the earnest attempts of these kids to honor these old warriors. My message today is to give a kind word, a thank you or a hug to every veteran you see, and say a prayer for the ones you can’t.