When people find out I am a veteran, the questions come, I deflect, and people don't understand. So, let me explain.
My introduction to the military was as a freshman in college watching ROTC cadets rappel off the science center. It looked like fun so I joined ROTC. One thing lead to another and, with Bachelors degree in hand, I was commissioned and on active duty soon after graduation.
Active duty. I saw this as a 3 year opportunity to see the world and advance my education. Add in the fact that I'd get a paycheck and it was a mighty good deal for a college kid with some debt and a Biology degree.
For me, this was a job - a temporary gig.
It wasn't long before I realized that for others, this was so much more.
This was their life and, even as my 3 years turned into 10, I knew in my heart it wasn't ever going to be mine.
I was single, on my own and with no particular place to be. I didn't give up anything (other than a social life) yet there were sacrifices being made all around me. From the supply sergeant's wife who threw herself into Girl Scouts so she and the girls had something to carry them through the absences, the drill sergeant (psycho-like to new recruits) who kept his daughter's teddy bear in his desk drawer, and the commander who, missing most of her children's birthdays, vowed not ever miss those of her grandchildren - tough heart-wrenching choices were made everyday.
There was sacrifice but there was not sadness. There was honor and there was inspiration. People question how a mother could leave her children to deploy yet I understand. It's not a black and white "you have to because it's your job," but a deep inner understanding of being part of something bigger than yourself.
And I got to be a part of that. Yes, I served but it's more than that. In between training, leading, commanding and teaching, I honored the commitment, the sacrifice and the honor of the American soldier and of the military family.
Connect with a soldier or a military family today.
Photo credit iStockphoto