I was raised in an environment where military service was to be revered. My father served in the Army. Two brothers followed suit. As a matter of fact, one of my favorite childhood photos of myself was taken at my older brother’s boot camp graduation festivities. I am very small, about three years old, and I am sitting on his “rack”, wearing his “cover”. This is the same older brother who used his first paycheck after boot camp to purchase my very first bicycle, and subsequently hauled the purchase home from Fort Knox tied to the roof of a Ford Pinto. At that time in my history, a military career was a remarkable thing, something of which to be proud. A veteran of the United States Armed Forces was a precious thing, in demand of respect.
Fast forward many years later, and I find myself married to a veteran of the United States Marine Corps. While I will not even begin to speculate on the feelings of being a veteran, I can say emphatically, that the entire issue took on a different meaning for me. I am in awe of the uniforms hanging in my bedroom closet. I can run my hands over the fabric of the blood stripes that adorn the trousers and know that he earned those. I see the ribbons pinned on the chest and feel a swell of pride in my heart that this is my husband, my son’s father. To me, this is the fabric of our great nation.
As people make comments about the decision my husband has made to re-enlist, I wonder why that awe is not present in them. I could extrapolate an enormous political conclusion about this. I am trying to refrain from that. And at first, I felt like I had to justify the decision to others. Now, as the next leg of John’s military career looms larger and larger in the future, I have gotten past that point. Instead, I hold my head high, with my chin forward and my shoulders back.
My husband, like all of you or your loved ones, was and still is brave enough to raise his hand and say, without hesitation, that he will fight for his country and her interests. He would willingly lay down his life if need be. For those who feel free to question the presence of sanity in the process of making this decision, his willingness (and yours) translates to the fact that they do not have to. They can sleep in a cozy and comfortable bed at night, with their loved ones a fingertip’s-reach away, safe from the world of which my family is on the brink of entering. The world my husband has already called his own once before. The world in which you live everyday.
I would love to conclude with a poetic and eloquent statement regarding the pride I feel in each of you, as a fellow American. I would love to express my gratitude satisfactorily. For the first time in my life, words fail me. For me, all of you are the United States. And should you ever be in the position we currently are, and others respond to your career choices with “Are you crazy?”, I would love for your response to be, “I may be a little crazy, but because I am, you don’t have to be.”