My two best friends joined the army right out of high school. The first sentence of the first letter that my friend Eddie wrote to me requested that I go to the Army Recruiting office and tell those two recruiters that they are dead meat. I tried to join the Army right about the same time. I failed the physical.
Military recruiters came to my high school and talked real slick. One of them put his hand on my shoulder and oozed his spiel to me, asking how it would feel to tell my dad that I would pay for my own college tuition. I don’t know if that is why I tried to join up or if it was that I wanted to follow my friends. I corrected what made me fail the physical. But Eddie’s letter made me have second thoughts. Then when my other friend Danny wrote a poetic description of being exposed to tear gas as part of basic training I solidified my thoughts.
After I graduated college I was confused and directionless. Iraq invaded Kuwait and Operation Desert Shield commenced. I tried to join the military again. The recruiters were delighted to have a college graduate and assured me that of course I could work for the Armed Forces Radio Network. I retook the written aptitude test and they liked me even more. The recruiters began to talk like car dealers with “What can we arrange so that you will commit today?” kind of talk. That alarmed me but I didn’t care. I didn’t know what else to do with my life. I was sick of delivering pizzas. I took the physical again. They found out that I had recently had asthmatic bronchitis. I failed the physical again.
Today I’m thinking about all the fighting men and women who are out there today and all the ones who have served and those who lost their lives that we honor today. They all made a decision. Maybe some of them wanted to pay for college and maybe some of them were trying to escape from something. I’ll guess many didn’t fully know what they were getting into. Still many others must have loved their country and wanted to serve it. I don’t know how many were drafted into service. But they made the decision to serve their country too. Even if it was an unwilling service they were there and did their job.
I’m thinking that even the superpatriots were just folks like my friends and me. They walked into the induction center and knew at least a little bit of what they were leaving behind and what could be ahead of them. However senseless some of us might think that any of these armed conflicts can be, I’m glad that we set this day aside to remember our brothers and sisters who went into them and lost their lives. I can’t thank them personally. But we all can remember their families. And we can honor their memory by thanking our living veterans today.
Thank you veterans.