Senior citizens, those who served in the military and those who did not, are an interesting amalgam of war protestors, draft dodgers, draftees, volunteers, and those who were volunteered. Among the volunteered is a man I have known since high school who served out his enlistment honorably but had been given a choice by the judge – enlist or go to jail.
I am among the volunteers. I totaled my car while driving home from my construction job. With no way to get to and from work, I enlisted, which is not the most noble reason for serving my country. Shortly after boot camp, I married my high school sweetheart and eventually graduated from college on the GI Bill, altering the direction of my family branch for generations. I was the first to graduate from college.
But I wasn’t done. After college, I applied for Officer Training School and was accepted. Yes, over the next four years I spent 225 days underground in Montana, but later, I jumped out of airplanes at Fort Benning, inspected Russian nuclear weapons in Siberia, and travelled the world, all the while wondering what my high school friends were doing, because, surely, they were not having this much fun. Yes, there was time away from family, sleepless nights, miserable days, and impossible pressures with international repercussions, but at this point, it was the career I had chosen. No complaints from me. And I was serving alongside the most selfless, professional, and intelligent citizens in America.
Many of us who served, if we are the least bit introspective and honest, will admit that our service was, at best, heavily influenced by our circumstances or was, at worst, entirely coerced. Nevertheless, we accept the appreciation of our neighbors, friends, and families on Memorial Day and Veterans Day. But be honest, my sisters and brothers in arms, our service, at the expense of our fellow citizens, gave us rich experiences. I don’t want to diminish in any way the sacrifices of those who were wounded or killed, or the sacrifices of their families. God knows, although military service is exciting and rewarding, it can also result in dire physical and psychological wounds or in an ultimate sacrifice.
But, again, if we are honest, we who served are debtors to our nation. Over the years I have spoken to numerous service academy graduates who lamented the four years they spent “sacrificing” their college experience. Not all of them think that way, but far too many do. I remind them that they owe the taxpayers a quarter of a million dollars for their prestigious education.
In fact, the US military may be the most successful social program in our country. For those of us fortunate enough to have served, it transformed our lives, giving us opportunities for education as well as life lessons difficult to learn under other circumstances. It also helps us place a value on freedom, civil liberties, and the political process.
I cannot count how many times I have heard people say to me, “Thank you for your service.” My response is, “You’re welcome. It was my honor to serve.” And, indeed, it was my honor. Thank you, my fellow citizens, for giving me the opportunity to serve. You have changed my life.
One of the largest organizations at Sun City Carolina Lakes is the Honoring Our Veterans Club, established to honor the resident veterans through recognition and communication of their military service. Throughout the year, the HOV Club hosts various events and activities to ensure the SCCL veterans are properly recognized and honored. Please visit the veterans’ display in The Lodge lobby at Sun City. It is a marvelous tribute to the men and women who served.
About the author: Bob Poliquin is a resident of Sun City Carolina Lakes and the managing editor of CharlotteSeniors.com. After 23 years of service, he retired from the Air Force in 2002.