A "Veteran" on Veteran's Day

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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.

Tennnnnshut!

Presennnn…harms!

God speed, and thank you.

2 Comments

Greg said:

As they say, "All gave some, but some gave all." Even sitting behind a desk to support those who were more directly in harm's way is a service. Whether you fired a bullet or not, whether you left the States or not, makes no difference. Sounds like you provided the tools and upkeep to keep those on our side up and running. Thank you.

Bill Eccles Author Profile Page said:

Thanks, Greg. I wasn't fishing for compliments with this entry, but it still feels good to be appreciated.