Today, Veterans Day, gives us the opportunity to pause and reflect on the sacrifices that have been made for America by our citizens. Whether that sacrifice results in the completion of a time commitment to serve a minimum of two years or ends with the ultimate sacrifice, these soldiers go where they are told in an effort to protect America’s interests.
None of our four boys have enlisted in military service. I don’t suffer the angst of knowing that my child is far away, perhaps in a land that has no other purpose than to harm him. But I also do not have the pride of saying that my son is a soldier for his country.
I was talking to my designer JR who is a vet from the Vietnam-era. He is quick to define his time of service as a vet of the Vietnam-era rather than a Vietnam vet – a minor distinction for some but an important one to him. He told me that for his entire four-year stint, he was stationed in Germany. This was during the Johnson administration when it seemed that every able-bodied soldier was deployed to Vietnam. For some reason, JR was skipped every single time. He said that he identifies himself as a Vietnam-era vet because a) he didn’t go to Vietnam and b) he wasn’t in any danger compared to those soldiers fighting in the jungle.
But even though he feels that his level of service was far less demanding and dangerous than those who were deployed to Southeast Asia, he still is part of the brotherhood that binds all soldiers.
JR had some health issues that led him to the VA Hospital. Knowing that all the patients in the crowded hospital were all servicemen was sobering, but he said that he felt a kinship to every single one of those patients. Military service creates a bond, he said, a brotherhood that can’t be denied and crosses all branches of the military. He said that not only did he feel that he could walk up to any one of those patients and talk one-on-one, soldier to soldier, but that each patient would have a story to tell.
Creating that brotherhood is something that the military does extremely well. JR explained that you go in as an individual and the first thing that is done is that individual is broken down. From getting your head shaved to wearing the same clothes, individuality is taken away. But the brotherhood begins through those very actions. It is because everyone’s head is shaved and everyone is wearing the same clothes. Everyone is being broken down together and rebuilt not as an individual but as a unit. And it is as a unit that they fight, eat and sleep. Even if you don’t like the person, you are confident that as a soldier he has your back.
I am an outsider. I understand that. The viewpoint I have of our soldiers may be naïve and based too much on the movies I watch. But though I don’t have firsthand knowledge of serving in any capacity, I appreciate and acknowledge what has been done for me and my family by those who made the commitment and became part of the brotherhood of soldiers.