The decision to serve one’s country is a personal one. Soldiers, Marines, sailors, airmen and Coast Guardsmen decide to serve their country for a variety of reasons.
Some are hard-charging, gung-ho patriots. Others want an adventure or a challenge. Some are looking to earn their U.S. citizenship. Many simply need a direction.
I enlisted in the Army at the age of 25—an old man by basic training standards—because I needed a change. I wanted to make a difference, sure, but I also wanted some adventure and, eventually, to go back to college.
I got it all … and something I didn’t expect: self-confidence and a sense of purpose.
Before I enlisted, my stutter was serious enough there were days I could barely introduce myself to a stranger or even hold a conversation with close friends. As a child, there was constant ridicule, even into middle school. I sat back and listened, but rarely spoke in groups.
That all began to change. As a public affairs specialist, my primary role was to tell the Army story: to highlight the efforts, achievements and sacrifices of men and women in uniform.
I had no choice but to talk with peers, senior enlisted, senior officers and service members at home, and leaders in Iraq and Afghanistan.
I learned I can handle unexpected challenges and rely on myself.
There is little I wouldn’t do to help out a fellow veteran, or anyone seriously in need.
I doubt I would be the person I am today were it not for the uniform. While there were challenges, I wouldn’t change a thing—although I’m sure my co-workers and family would appreciate fewer puns throughout the day.
Veterans Day is November 11. If you would like to do something special to help or thank a veteran, here are a few ideas:
- Donate to Operation Gratitude, which prepares care packages for troops throughout the world. Go to www. operationgratitude.com to learn more.
- Have a neighbor, friend or family member with a deployed loved one? Check on them and see how they are doing.
- Donate gently used clothing and household goods to Vietnam Veterans of America.
- Attend a local VFW or American Legion-sponsored event.
- Volunteer at a VA medical center or veterans’ home.
- Tell your kids or grandkids about a family member’s service.
- Check out DAV Charitable Service Trust.
- Easiest of all is to just say thanks when you see a veteran in a service-related ballcap or T-shirt.
To all who served and continue to serve, and the families who support them, thank you.