SERVING OUR VETERANS: An identity problem
What does a past or present veteran really look like? While in the military, what do they do, or what did they do?
I was working as a substitute teacher in an elementary class room about a year ago. A comment by one student made me realize that those who have served, or are serving today, have an identity problem. Somehow the subject came up about the military and I mentioned that I had served in the Army. One young male student got rather excited and exclaimed he wanted to join the Army when he was old enough so he could “shoot guns and kill the bad guys”.
Is this what young people think all those in the military do? I have often thought about this since that day in the classroom and through listening and observation, I have learned that many of our youth think the same. But, is it really no wonder considering how a soldier is depicted in movies, books, video games and other media sources? Are not most of their military heroes, and ours, ones who have shown courage and gallantry in the face of an enemy while in combat? Are not most of the highest awards for heroism given to those for heroic duty while in combat? What if a young person does not want to “shoot guns and kill bad guys”? Is there no place for this person in the military? I believe some education is needed here. The numbers vary, but I have read that in all wars throughout history, only about one out of eight soldiers, or even as high as one out of twelve, faced front-line combat duty. So what did the rest of the soldiers do? I know many of you know this answer so maybe we should all do a better job educating our young people on this. We need to explain to them the front-line soldiers need many other helping hands in order for them to perform their mission. So, besides having combat trained soldiers, each branch of the Armed Forces needs highly skilled and trained personnel in areas of support including computer, mechanics, communications, medical care, supply, transportation, finance, legal assistance, food service and the list goes on. Although many of these fields certainly do not get the glory of those in combat, their roles are still vital to the over-all success of a combat mission and the security of our nation. There are many ways one can proudly serve in our military.
What is important is not what one did in the military, but that they did serve our country and have contributed to the freedoms and liberty that we enjoy today. Those who have proudly served are united under one name and that name is “veteran”. The term “Band of Brothers” is not just a catchy name for a book or a TV mini-series. It is a bond that eclipses both time and distance. It is the realization that for the majority of those who put on a military uniform for this country, they became part of something much larger and more meaningful than just themselves. Duty, honor, country are not empty words to them. Let us honor them, and thank them for whatever role they performed. And, let us educate our young people to do the same.
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