Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Three cheers for veterans!

I always feel a bit sheepish on Veterans Day as I never served in the military.

However, I also share Ronald Reagan's opinion of the value of an all volunteer army. The late, great Reagan suggested that an all volunteer army is valuable, indeed, as it is filled with people who want to be there, whereas a draft can result in a lot of resentful soldiers.

There's a certain wisdom to that.

My family's history in the service is rather slight. My great-great-grandfather fought in the War Between the States (he was an Arkansan who owned land in the Southern part of this state, so I'll let you guess which side he fought on) and he was the last one to take up arms until my father's generation.

Why? Because the War Between the States and the Reconstruction were still fresh in the minds of people in these parts for at least a couple of generations. Fighting for the United States was, believe it or not, considered the same as fighting for a foreign, invading power. No, I'm not kidding.

Now, my grandfather on my dad's side missed out on World War II by a couple of weeks. He was making the arrangements to leave his Arkansas home and report for duty when the Enola Gay dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. As we all know, that attack (and the one on Nagasaki shortly thereafter) brought the war to a close. With the war being over, granddad got to stay home.

My father broke the mold a bit by voluntarily joining the Navy after he graduated from college. He wound up touring Europe on an aircraft carrier. By joining when he did, my dad managed to miss Vietnam. His brother wasn't so lucky. My uncle enlisted in the Marines and spent two tours of duty in Vietnam. The experience literally drove him insane.

Obviously, the men in my family have never been quick to enlist. On my mother's side, I had an uncle in the Navy and his children also joined the military. Those people were the exceptions rather than the rule.

It's a completely different thing in my wife's family. My wife is an Army veteran and almost anyone in her generation and the one before it served in the Army or Navy. Why did they join? The felt it was their duty to do so.

That's admirable, folks. That type of dedication to this country is worthy of praise. That kind of dedication is the very thing that inspired by father to enlist rather than go directly to graduate school. It is the reason my uncle lost his sanity in Vietnam. My brother-in-law saw a friend of his killed in front of him in the first war in Iraq and another brother-in-law was among the first troops to invade in the current Iraq conflict.

None of the people I mentioned had any idea they would wind up at war, but they joined up and served, regardless. They knew they might be called on to fight for our nation and they volunteered to join the military, anyway. I appreciate their dedication and any American -- regardless on his or her view of the current war in Iraq -- should admire our troops, too.

So, my hat's off to our troops -- those who have served and those who are now serving -- for keeping our country safe.

Time to make the wife mad

Now, I've just got to tell a couple of stories related to my wife's time in the military. On our first date, she told me she was in the Army. I asked, "Well, did you ever kill a man?"

She saw that as an inappropriate question, but I thought it was the kind of thing you'd want to know about a woman you were on a date with. In spite of my rude behavior, we did end up married. She's used to my quirks and odd sense of humor at this point.

Also, my wife still carries her dog tag with her. I was looking at it before we were married, and I noticed the word "Roman Catholic" was stamped on it.

"You're not a Catholic," I said. "You told me you've always been a Baptist!"

For the record, we're laid-back Methodists now.

Anyway, she replied, "Well, I did that because of something my brother told me. He said I should say I'm Catholic because, in boot camp, you get out an hour early for mass on some days."

"So, did you actually go to mass?" I asked.

"No. I went to the PX and drank whiskey."

I do adore that woman.


Paul Eilers said...

I was in college during the gulf War. I tried to enlist in the Marines, but they would not take me due to my hearing loss.

I have always admired those who have served our country.

And so on this Veterans Day, I want to say thank you to all the men and women who have served this country and have fought to keep her free.

May God bless them and may God bless America.

Krissi said...

Ha! I am loving your wifes sense of slacking :) And hour early for Mass and chose to drink instead! She is my kinda girl!! And not Catholic to boot! Yes she is a lady after my own heart!!

Tell her thank you for her service, from one of your new loyal and royal Army members!!