Bob Giusti - Contributing Writer
On this Veterans Day I didn't need to look far to find a soldier. My first son (I have three), is on active duty with the National Guard, has already been to Afghanistan once, and is scheduled to return again in the Spring.
His grandfather was a veteran of WW2 who enlisted for the GI education bill as much as to fight for his country. There were perks for soldiers/veterans then that appealed to a depression era generation. That was my father’s path as a frightened teen who found himself alone in a foxhole in Europe on a cold Thanksgiving Day.The draft ended around the time of my eighteenth birthday. I had my draft card since I had signed up at my high school gym a year before (by law) and that was the closest to the military I ever got. I was spared “the choice”.Now there is my eldest Michael, who like his grandfather, needed to take advantage of the opportunities a volunteer army offers. He weighed his options and enlisted in the Guard. His younger brothers (ages 5 and 7) went out for Halloween as soldiers this year and pretend they serve with their older brother. We are all proud. I’m just as proud to present a portion (the original is long) of something Michael recently blogged in the notes section of his Facebook. It’s a personal and honest take on being a soldier in these modern times that I at least; found poignant and interesting enough to share (with his
I've never been one to kiss ass or brown nose. I just do the right thing and let the cards fall where they may. So here's my perspective when it comes to the various phrases and sights we see and hear when it comes to talking about Veterans and military service. If you're seen in public wearing the uniform, chances are complete strangers will stare and smile at you and eventually come up and say, "Thank you for your service!" or maybe even "Thank you for defending our freedom!" Well, ideally at least. It's not like the Vietnam days where hippies were calling you "Baby Killer." But the truth is, I've never known how to respond to it. So I usually say, "Oh, no sweat," or "Hey, no problem." Or if they seem like they can take a joke I say, "Sure--just keep paying your taxes!" And now I think I might work "Hey, it's better than jail! Ha, no just kidding, thanks though," into the rotation. Either way, it kind of takes me by surprise, even when I'm told by people I know. And I think it takes many other service members by surprise too, even though we hear it all the time. Be cautious of the soldier who gets off on hearing it, because we aren't in this for our own glory and own self-gratitude. But what the hell does that even mean? The whole "defending our freedom" thing? It's a pretty amorphous statement when you look at it. I'm battling for this gigantic abstract concept? What? All I've done so far is mop a bunch of floors and get yelled at.I remember being on Christmas Exodus from AIT in 2009, sitting at the Emerald Square mall at the recruiting office for this recruiting assistance program. An elderly couple walked by and did the usual thank you and a hand shake and paragraph about their grandson, and I felt guilty. I had to think. In reality I haven't done anything. I didn't even graduate job school yet. Were they thanking me for getting drunk on my first pass weekend and making out with that girl and hitting her in the face with a TV remote? But they were so happy to see me in uniform. I just didn't know what it meant. Thanks for my service? Here's the answer: I'm doing so someone else doesn't have to. It's a volunteer military. That's the point. Imagine if we had a draft. Why would you thank an able bodied citizen who had no choice, just like the rest of his able bodied peers who were drafted, forced into service? Well, in the moment at least. You can always be grateful for someone risking their hide so your ass don't get called up to do it.
In essence, the big Army says, "Look, we need people to fill these spots. I need grunts over here. I need some police over here. Lemme get some engineers over here. I definitely need a couple of special talents over here... Hey, if anyone is a doctor you can cut to the front of the line... Look, I need these slots filled like right now, so I'll give you some more money if you raise that right hand..."
And that entire volunteer force says, "Chill, I got this."