Someone recently asked me if I would let one of my children join the military after all that I’d seen and done while serving. It was a question that I wasn’t prepared to answer at the time, so I gave the cop-out answer: “It’s their life and they’ll do whatever makes them happy.”
And while that answer does hold some truth, I know it’s not the same answer that I would give today. I took a few days to think the question over and I started remembering all of the amazingly fun things I was able to do in my decade of service.
I traveled a lot, spending over seven years in Europe, Asia and the Middle East — and got tattooed in all of them. I barbequed, partied and bonded with some really wonderful friends and families. I had the opportunity to lead and be led by some of the best soldiers the Military Police Corps had to offer. I embraced my romantic side by taking castle tours, spending my 19th birthday under the Eiffel Tower and venturing on a trip to Spain in an effort to woo a girl (which worked, unfortunately). I even took the time to learn some world history by visiting Dachau, a concentration camp, and Adolph Hitler’s “Eagles Nest.” Both places that deserved some spit and my middle finger, but were humbling ventures.
I had so many unique experiences that I could never list them on a single page, but it was all of these opportunities that led me to my very favorite memory and to the top of my list — my children. Without the military, I would never have met their mother and gotten to live the life I do with them, and for that, I will be forever grateful.
On the other hand, there were some undesirable experiences as well.
Missing my children while I was deployed easily makes the list, but there are other things too. I remember the first time I watched a soldier die. He had just been married and was expecting his first child. I pulled him out of his vehicle and tended to him and his squad out of training and instinct, but I’ll never forget the way I cried to my platoon sergeant after everything was over. I was 18. I wasn’t embarrassed.
Losing friends in combat is always hard to swallow. Watching friends suffer from post-traumatic stress and acting as if everything is OK is painful. The weeks spent in the field weren’t bad, but coming out of the field to find mundane tasks that needed to be accomplished before I could go home and take a shower were obnoxious. The same mundane tasks were given out when we had down time, which further annoyed me. Bad leadership happened more often that good leadership. Being hated by everyone because you’re an MP was normal, but being hated by peers because they were so disgruntled from bad leadership made things almost unbearable. Being injured, which ultimately slowed me down too much to continue in the Army, makes you feel like a dirtbag, and people like to remind you that you’re not pulling your weight.
And, as a byproduct of service, trying to fit in with the rest of society when I was done was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.
Despite all that, if I was given the opportunity to answer that question again, I’d answer yes. Yes, I would allow my children to join the military and I would support them in their decision. Whether it was for the love of their country, the college money or because they simply didn’t know what to do with their life, I would say yes.
You don’t join the military with the idea that it will be an easy life, but you at least know it will be stable. It’s not always fun, and it’s definitely not glamorous, but it’s a good, respectable choice. I’m not going to lie and say that everything about the military is grand or noble, but I wouldn’t have changed my service for anything, and I wouldn’t ever push my kids away from serving.
You may or may not agree with my answer, but that’s the very essence and beauty of our service. It’s because of those that came before us and those that serve us now that I’m even allowed to have that opinion. Thank you for giving me the right to share it.
Photo courtesy Michael_Lehet
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