Service to Country
From the time I was about 6-years-old, I had a very keen sense of patriotism. Two years later, I was in a Girl Scout uniform, and involved in flag ceremonies.
In those days, we were taught about service to our communities, our country, and our fellow man. In fact, I believed I "owed my country"; my country did not owe me a thing.
I dreamed of joining the military many years before I was able to do so. I had to wait until 1973, after I turned 18. Only men were allowed to join at an earlier age.
On August 23rd, I took my first oath of enlistment, when I joined the Air Force. I was not even two weeks into my 18th year of life. I left the Air Force two years later.
In 1976, I was back in a Navy uniform, having joined the Navy Reserve. Six months later, I was back on active duty with the regular Navy, and I served until November 1989.
I did not join the military to find a job to pay my bills. Nor did I join because I was looking for a way to get education for free.
Pay was simply a bonus for me doing what I wanted to do. When I enlisted in the Air Force, I made just over $300.00 before taxes each month. That was about $1.75 an hour.
I also had a metal bunk in an old barracks, and I ate in the chow halls. We were not allowed to do anything other than that, if we were unmarried in those days.
But I was happy to do it. Because I did it "to serve my country." I never thought of anything else.
Today's enlistees come in for many different reasons; most of them do not share in what was my 18-year-old idealistic vision of patriotism. I hear the majority say that they joined "because their were no jobs out there," or "I will put up with four years so I can get my college paid for." Some do come in for a desire of "service."
But no matter the reasons that each and every one who joins the military, all take an oath to "...support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic...(to) bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and...(to) obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed ..."
Those today may not quite understand or appreciate those words in the same way that I do. Regardless, on this Veterans Day, I honor all my fellow veterans, as they do not realize what a rare breed they are. And I will be eternally grateful to all who have served before, with, and after me.
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DID YOU KNOW?
As of 2014, 7.3 percent of all living Americans have served in the military at some point in their lives.The overall percentage varies by gender — 1.4 percent of all living female Americans have ever served in the armed services, compared to 13.4 percent of all male Americans. ( Source: Veterans Administration )
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Copyright © 2015 Coral Levang
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