Veteran's Day: Thank you and You're Welcome, America

I am a United States Navy Veteran. I joined the military in 1982 at the age of 19. I had just finished my first year of college, and knew I wasn't interested in continuing my studies at the time. I wanted to do something more with my life, something bigger, but I just couldn't decide on what it was I wanted from life- what I wanted to be when I grew up.
As a kid, I wasn't a girly girl. I liked playing football, climbing trees, playing with worms, digging in dirt, anything that allowed me to be outside. I played with GI-Joes and made them all go to war.. Barbies were tied up in the weeping willow tree when they got into my DZ (drop zone). I loved all the same things the boys in my neighborhood did, and my mom (who was a single parent) either didn't really care or just didn't have time to pay attention. I was called a 'tom-boy' by all of her friends and she would laugh about it. I was never discouraged from liking the things I liked, and I just never got into all that frilly girly stuff until I was a teenager, and even then, I just fell in love with makeup.. lol  At one time, I wanted to be a fighter pilot, but girls weren't allowed to do that kind of thing.

So, when I was sitting in a dorm room at the end of my first year of college, trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life, my best friend and I decided to go talk to a recruiter. I had talked to an airforce recruiter a couple of years prior to that. He came to my house to talk to me (I was 17). When he tried hitting on me, I immediately decided that the airforce wasn't my cup of java, and hadn't thought about it since.
So, we went to the local recruiting station. We talked to the Army (although neither of us was really all that interested in it), and of course, the Air Force was out of the question for me, then it was the Marines and finally the Navy.

Afterward, we weighed our options. My best friend and I thought long and hard about which branch of the service to go into- and because one of my friend's dads had served in the Navy (he had the coolest anchor tattoo on his arm, and he had been IN Pearl Harbor on the day of the attack) and because my best friend wanted to be near the beach, we made the decision to go Navy. The Navy recruiter told us we belonged in the Navy because we swore like sailors. Good enough! Sign us up!

It's okay to laugh. We were 19 years old. We wanted out of Charleston, West Virginia. There wasn't much to do there to begin with, and we had the options of college, the state police academy, or the military if we were looking for a career.

So, not a really noble intent there, right?  But wait! There's more to why I joined and served. Don't give up on me yet, America...

I was in love with Ronald Reagan. No, not in that girly, crush-on-the-actor kind of way. I was in love with my President. For all his faults and idiosyncrasies and any other things people want to blame him for, the man was the reason I fell in love with my country.

You see, I grew up in the era of the Vietnam Conflict (veterans will understand why I say conflict and not war), and I was 11 years old when Nixon resigned the Presidency due to the Watergate scandal. I also grew up in a time when we had the "Iron Curtain"... the USSR and the United States were the two "super powers" of the world, and there was a constant threat of a nuclear war at any moment.

Americans were disillusioned and apathetic. What's there to love about a country who treats its returning soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines  like criminals? Who can believe in the office of the Presidency after its been so corrupted? Why bother caring at all? One of these people is going to hit that big red button and it's all going to be over in a split second, anyway. We had 52 of our people held in Iran as hostages and the attempt made to save them resulted in a disaster. Good grief, our own government can't even keep our people safe overseas!

Then, came Ronald Reagan. He made us nationalists again. He made us believe in ourselves. He had the ability to get on camera and excite us about what made this country great. Him being elected put enough fear into those hostage-takers that they released them when he became President. He made me want to give back to all of those people who came before me and worked so hard to give me the freedoms I had.
His birthday was the day before mine, too! A fellow Aquarian! :)

It wouldn't be until much later that I'd understand politics and the impact of his presidency on us and the world. Still, I am grateful for the influence he had on me at the time.

I wanted to serve my country under that President. Because of him, I was willing to give my life and service to protect and defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic. I believed in America.. I sang Lee Greenwood's song from the top of my lungs and with total pride. I teared up when I swore my oath, and I was never more proud than on the day I graduated bootcamp as one of less than 1,000 women serving at the time.

I was yours, America. All yours. I was ready to make sure not one of you lost sleep over your security. I was there and so were my fellow soldiers, airmen, marines and sailors. We'd take care of you. We'd be sure that the Soviets didn't sneak onshore in the middle of the night and take away your freedom. We were there, and we'd be damned if we were going to let anything happen to our fellow Americans.

My time in service taught me so much. One of the most difficult decisions I ever made was to leave the Navy. I surrendered my life and freedoms to the service of my country, and it gave me back a life filled with confidence, leadership skills, decision making abilities, organizational skills, hope and inspiration. It was more than a fair trade. Because of the things I was taught in the Navy, I have been able to survive and thrive as an American civilian.

So, when you see me and you say, "Thank you" and I say, "You're Welcome, America", I mean that with all my heart. It was truly, my privilege and pleasure.

To my fellow veterans: Thank you. Thank you for your service, friendship, camaraderie, and understanding. I am in the best of company.

Happy Veteran's Day!

1 comment:

  1. Thank you and all the other men and women who serve(d) our nation. Sincerely, THANK YOU! <3


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