Military service was always a thing I looked at from afar. My biological father was in the Iowa Army National Guard and my mom received some veteran’s benefits to help raise the family.
He died from complications of diabetes when I was about six so I don’t remember much other than my mom explaining that we got some money each month from the government because of his service.
His father, my grandfather Raymond, served in the Navy, I believe. I’ve seen the black-and-white Polaroids of him in uniform. I remember he wore a cap, like the old police officer caps with the points. It seemed to be a white uniform. He didn’t talk about it much. My sister-in-law served as well.
I have a friend, who’s actually a family member of my sister-in-law, who feeds me more information on military service than I ever got from my grandfathers.
He was in the Navy during the Vietnam War and did some sort of night recon with what later became the Navy Seals. I write gently about it because our conversations were more…conversational.
Now I talk with friends like Geoff Shields, who doesn’t really talk about his military experience, but who would chat conversationally about his journalistic experiences, and the career he carved out of that on-the-job training.
I had a few conversations with naval recruiters after I did some stringing with the newspaper in Burlington. I thought that serving in the Navy on an aircraft carrier and writing the news would be adventurous. I came to find out that battling asthma through adolescence wasn’t a deal breaker, but it made things a bit more difficult in the training phases, and I had a wicked fear of flying. Not a good combination for military service, but a regret I have nonetheless.
My cousin served in Desert Storm and now has a lucrative career doing what he was trained to do in communications. I remember hearing stories from the man who helped raise me, about his father’s service. Something about a motorcycle brigade and hand grenades thrown down tank gun barrels.
It all seems fictional to me and it shouldn’t. Their sacrifices resulted in freedom, regardless of the incentive to serve. Some went because it was the right thing to do, others went because it was the only thing to do. And I’m sure other reasons are scattered about.
The end result of it all is the country we live in and the protections and freedoms we too often take for granted, as a result of those sacrifices.
Not serving doesn’t make me less of a patriot, I’m just one that never wore a uniform… and I’m absolutely comfortable taking a back seat to those that did.
Happy Veteran’s Day to all my friends and family out there. And thank all of you for your service. As a reminder, Hy-Vee will be serving breakfast to all area veterans on Monday morning from 6 a.m. to 11 a.m. And Holy Trinity Catholic will be holding a Veteran’s Assembly beginning with mass at 8:45 a.m. at St. Mary’s in West Point.
Pen City Current also has a special edition running today honoring veteran submissions to our publication,… but that’s Beside the Point.