Monday, May 28, 2012

In Memorial Day

Memorial Day has always been a big deal for me. My father was career Army, retiring as a Lt Col and working for defense contractors once he got out of the service. I spent my time at Carlisle Barracks in PA until I was ten before moving to outside the gates at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, and Wurzburg, Germany. To say that I was an Army brat is an understatement. The military just... was.

I avoided JROTC in high school but applied for and received an Army ROTC scholarship for college. I aced the entrance exams and physicals... even had a Letter of Recommendation from one of the highest ranking army officials in Europe. I had a full-ride to anywhere I wanted to go. I was Va Tech bound...

But, it was 1996 and the armed forces were scaling back after our victories in Iraq. They were looking for reasons to exempt applicants, so my childhood asthma got my scholarship rescinded. To be honest, I didn't particularly care. Very few things affect me, and I simply let this roll off my back like everything else. I still had a full academic scholarship to Florida, and I made good use of it. Still, I wonder where my life would have taken me if I had gone off to Blacksburg and the Army. The likelihood that I would have been sent to Afghanistan is almost certain.

Thanks to my employment with the government, I've kept some ties to the military complex, but it's been nothing like what I had growing up. So, for the past decade, the military has been a darkening light in my day. I just hadn't been surrounded by it as in the past.

Then, I got swept up with Marines in Quantico. I signed up for a GORUCK and started hanging with active-duty soldiers of every branch. I had day-to-day interactions with Green Berets. Suddenly, the military is a bigger part of my life, and Memorial Day means that much more to me again. I've always had problems with the way people perceive the holiday. For a surprisingly large portion of the country, it's simply a day off to BBQ and enjoy the beach. They don't know why they have the day off from work, they just embrace it. Our country has the best of us (trust me, I've met a lot of these guys, and the mumbling cattle that walk the malls of America embarrass me as an American) serving around the world as ambassador soldiers. They represent us in other countries and fight the battles to keep us safe.

Remember them this Memorial Day. But, remember them every other day, too. We owe it to them. If not for them, it'd be like cattle to the slaughter. The average American doesn't have the spirit our forefathers once did. But, these men and women aren't average. Get off your ass and tell them thanks. Then, go back to your burger... or maybe hit the gym and try to be what we once were.

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