November 11, 2011

Veteran's Day

Today is a day when we are supposed to reflect on the true price of freedom and be thankful for the Veterans of our Armed Forces.  Of course, for most Americans this means an extra excuse for a sale and the inability to eat at certain restaurants because they are offering a special free meal to Vets.

I'm pretty unique in my family in the fact that I'm a Veteran.  I served in the Air Force between 1992 and 2000.  Now I'm not the only family member to serve, all four of my Grandfathers (including the Step-Grandfathers here) were either in the Army or the Navy (3 and 1).  My maternal Grandfather was a Pearl Harbor survivor.  Elsewhere in my large family, both sides and my wife's family even, there was one military member in the next generation, my mother's brother Dan was a Naval Officer.  As one would expect, the family gets larger in the next (my) generation and I'm the only one who has served.  For this fact I'm a bit of the "odd man out" with my family, especially with my father and his wife.

I'm pretty sure my father was a draft-dodger during Vietnam and when I was in high school he tried to make me join the Mennonite church.  We attended the local church, but I was forced to take confirmation classes in preparation for joining.  This was when I was 16ish and that is when the "fun" that is the Selective Service starts.  You have to register at/on/before (I don't recall) your 18th birthday and around the time of these classes and my 16th birthday I started getting literature from the Church regarding registering.  They wanted me to write "I am a conscientious objector to war in any form" across my registration.  The mailing heated up and I was politely informed that if needed, I could be secreted to Canada should the government try to prosecute me for my religious beliefs.

"My" religious beliefs.....evidently nobody really cared what I thought.  I attended the classes, heck, I'd argue I was the only "active" participant, but when it can time to go through the confirmation I stuck to my guns (figuratively speaking).  I never did join and I never felt that was held against me, but I enjoyed the Church for the people in it, not the dogma.

When my 18th birthday came, I never had to register for the Selective Service.  I had taken the Armed Forces Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) test in high school and evidently my registration information for that was simply rolled over to the Selective Service without me having to do anything.

Years later, after I had joined the Air Force and become an Enlisted Terminal Attack Controller in a Tactical Air Control Party some of this family history came back.  While on leave preparing to go to Bosnia I got in a fight with my father, who basically came right out and said that I didn't have a "real job".  I was crushed and left the state that afternoon and the country the next day.  I didn't really speak to him for a couple years after that.  I learned from neighbors just how little my parents thought of me while I was on the ground in Tuzla and later at Camp McGovern in Brcko.  Our relationship has never really recovered from that.

On Veteran's Day I'm thankful for those that have come before me, and for those that are serving God and Country far from home.  I also get a little remorseful for what my service has personally cost me.  All in all though, I think that my experiences were worth the price.


Dave2 said...

Thank you for your service!

Castigator said...

"I learned from neighbors just how little my parents thought of me while I was on the ground in Tuzla and later at Camp McGovern in Brcko."

How did you learn this from your neighbors? I'm interested.

Another veteran (4 years Army),

Christopher Stogdill said...

My neighbors had a son that was in the Navy and his ship was in the Adriatic supporting IFOR. My step-mother consoled her because her son was "in Bosnia". The neighbor countered with something to the effect of, "Isn't Chris in Tuzla/Brcko?" The years have muddled where I was at the time. The neighbor told my aunt, who mentioned it to me.

I came from a small town of about 200. Few secrets in a place like that.