Yesterday was Veterans Day. I’m sure there are many activities going on today as well, but yesterday was the official holiday. It’s an important day because it honors every person who has served honorably in the armed services of this country. As a veteran myself (I served 10 years in the Navy from 1975 to 1985), I usually do something special to remember my time in the service. A lot of faces come back—all of the kids who served with me either on shore stations or on ship. We were all kids—wet behind the ears and way too young to have left home. I know where a few of my former shipmates are today, but I’ve lost contact with a good many of them.
Some people confuse Veterans Day with Memorial Day. The difference between the two is that Veterans Day celebrates the contributions of all veterans, while Memorial Day is specifically set aside to honor those who died while serving their country. If you want to thank a veteran for his or her service to our country, yesterday would have been the day to do it.
A number of people have asked why I joined the Navy. There were actually a number of reasons and I can’t say that any one reason was the deciding factor for me. I wanted to see the world and the Navy seemed like one way to do it. I did see a lot of the Orient during two deployments. My ports of call included: Japan, Korea, Thailand, Hong Kong, Singapore, Australia, and The Philippines (amongst other places). I actually did get to enjoy enough time in each port to at least get a flavor of the place. I consider myself extremely fortunate to have seen so much.
Another reason was education. As a Sonar Technician I received a lot of electronics training in all sorts of technologies. However, by the time I left the service, I had acquired enough college credits for a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science—free of financial encumbrances. I more than met my educational goals.
I also needed some order and discipline in my life. Obviously, the Navy is well equipped to offer as much order and discipline as any one person could ever want (or need). I grew up while I was in the service and I managed to do it without getting over my head in trouble. If I had stayed a civilian, I might not have fared so well. I managed to make it to first class petty-officer (an E6) during my time in service, which is considered pretty good during time of peace. (While I was in during the time of the Lebanon/Granada conflicts, I wasn’t actually called upon to serve in those areas.)
Most importantly, during this time I became distinctly aware of what it means to be an American and I gained an understanding of why our freedoms are so incredibly important. I was never called on to die for my freedom, but I know many others have. Even so, I was willing to die should anyone have ever asked it of me. During this time of remembering our warriors, it doesn’t matter whether you agree with the politics of the wars we wage or not. That someone is willing to lay his or her life on the line for your freedom is what matters. If you didn’t get the chance to do it yesterday, make sure you thank a veteran today.