As another Veterans Day is nearly upon us, I am forced to look back at my brief military service and try to determine if I meet the criteria. Although, technically, I did go through basic training and participate in a number of weekend warrior activities, I was given an honorable medical discharge before I completed my enlistment. (The wrong broken bones in an infantry unit can be devastating.) Whenever they ask for veterans to stand at church or in other places where they honor veterans, I cannot with clear conscience stand and have my military achievements in any way be compared with those of real heroes.
As a National Guardsman, I:
- was never gone from my home for more than 2 weeks (with the exception of Basic Training)
- never served in an actual war zone. (While going through Basic Training, the drill sergeants threatened sending us directly to the Faulkland Islands once we graduated.)
- joined the National Guard for very selfish reasons-to get college paid for. (When I signed up, the Ohio National Guard offered to pay 4 years of tuition at a state supporting school OR a certain amount of it at a private school. They also paid a bonus for signing up.)
- never saw a friend die or be injured while on active duty. (At Basic Training, someone in our company got spinal meningitis and they threatened to quarantine all of us and not let us go home, but I didn’t know the guy.)
- memorized my 3 general orders. I still remember them now using the acronym GOR. (Since I still remember them now, I must have memorized them well!)
- went through Basic Training in a buddy platoon. So, I didn’t go into my first platoon with complete strangers. I went through with my brother, a couple of high school friends, and some others I met prior to arriving at Fort Benning, GA.
- joined the National Guard in a program called “split-option”. This program allowed high schoolers going into their senior year (like my brother who came home from basic training to play football) and college bound students to complete basic training during one summer and finish their advanced training the next summer. Before I went back for my advanced training, I broke my elbow (I was a little careless). I then broke my wrist playing flag football. Because I was not able to complete my advanced training within the designated time, I was given an honorable medical discharge.
Regardless of my ability to get discounts on military insurance or the other things I may share with those I consider true Veterans, I am not worthy to wear the title because of how minimally inconvenienced my life has been due to this service:
- I don’t have PTSD.
- I have all of my appendages.
- I don’t have overwhelming guilt because of a decision I made that got someone else killed.
- I didn’t miss the birth of any of my kids or the death of any of my family members,
- I didn’t have to overcome ridicule for doing something my country asked me to do.
At best I am a “veteran” (little ‘v’). I truly honor the Veterans who willingly or less willingly fought to protect this country. May I never be to rushed to pause and thank a Veteran for what he has done. May God have special mercy on Veterans. May heaven be full of Veterans who are completely restored with all physical, emotional and psychological scars removed.