A "Veteran" on Veteran's Day
Note the use of double quotes in the title. Indeed, I served in the armed forces. Indeed, I supposedly “wrote a blank check” to my country. Indeed, I qualify for VA benefits, property tax reductions (minimal, but still more than zero), and could even get a Veteran plate for my car.
But I always felt like a poser. Not a real Veteran, capital “V,” but more like a “former employee.”
You see, I went into the US Air Force having completed my four years of college on a full-ride scholarship. “Full-ride” is recruiter lingo for, “We pay damned-near everything for your education.” All my family had to pay was for room and board, a minuscule amount of money for the education I got from Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology. And all I owed the USAF was four years of well-paid, well-benefited employment.
Yeah, I recognized that I was to serve in the military where they use guns and stuff to kill people, but I also knew that serving in the USAF with an engineering degree was unlikely to get me into a position where Uncle Sam would have to cash that check. As it was, I was right. I shot a gun on only two occasions, and only at targets, and missed qualifying marksman by one lousy point. Could I have repeated that in the heat of battle? Unlikely. Could I have been sent to “the front lines” to work on something electrical? Absolutely. Might I have been a crewmember on some plane that flew over the front lines? Coulda’.
But I didn’t.
No, I flew my Mark 1A1 Steelcase Modular Office Furniture System pretty much nowhere. I got a ride on a B-52H. I got to see more than a handful of Air Force bases and contractor locations. I programmed. I scheduled. I “supported the warfighter,” as the performance reports say. It was important work, certainly, but…
…but I sure don’t feel like a Veteran, capital “V,” as a result.
Instead, I recognize that there are those who wrote that check and gave it to Uncle Sam and said, “Here. No strings attached.” I realize that there are those who do this day in, day out. I know that there are those who face bullets and bombs and do so because they volunteered to serve their country. I know of those who have had that check cashed for part of what’s in the account… or all of what’s in the account. I know of the families who endure the hardships, suffer the losses, and shed the tears.
That wasn’t me.
No, those are the true Veterans, with the much-deserved capital “V.” It is your day today, and it is I, a veteran, who salute you.
God speed, and thank you.