Veteran's Day in my corner of the country is a big deal. I live not too far from a military base, so active and retired military are people you encounter everywhere, everyday. I myself have no intimate interactions with the military (no brothers/sisters in; no husband in), other than people I know in passing.
Most of the military I know are older. Makes sense, I suppose, since I'm older. I see the retirees, or the still active men and women who are rearing families as well as going through their military careers. They've been in awhile already. I don't often think about where and when they started - in a practical sense.
This past week opened my eyes in a new way.
Last week, the church I belong to hosted a Veteran's Day dinner which involved all the parishioners (where we naturally have a lot of retirees) as well as several bus loads of young, active duty men and women. The point of this dinner was to have the young and old share stories and interact; to recognize the current military and pay respects to those who came before.
A great time was had by all during this very successful dinner. While my kids and I were nearing the end of our dinner, a young man in full dress uniform stopped and asked if he could eat with us. Naturally I agreed for him to join us. We all talked and were entertained by the brief stories he shared of where he came from.
However, as we talked, I noticed he looked awfully young. This bothered me a little because I'm thinking: military, guns, world assistance - and this guy looks like he could be in high school. Then I looked around - really looked around at some of the active men and women and noticed that most looked...young. The host of the dinner even asked who was the youngest person there and he started asking for age 17!!
Now, I'm not ancient or anything, but I do have little kids and am in relative good health, so I don't often think of myself as old.
During our conversation, the young man happened to mention he was 19. As in 19 years old! He'd just had a birthday. It struck me that I could be his mother! He explained how he was finishing school here and then he'd be deployed. He hasn't yet been in the service for a year, and he knew he was going off into places that could be dangerous, and he was okay with this.
Again, it struck me how he was so energetic, so patriotic, so full of life and a yearning to make a difference. A fresh change compared to the military I usually see.
I know he wasn't the only one, either. All the young active duty men and women there mirrored his desires.
I realized that night, in living so close to all things military, I've taken everything about the military for granted. Whoa. Yeah, I have. I suppose this happens, when one is exposed to something everyday, one becomes desensitized.
Now, my thanks may be belated in relationship to the actual holiday, but that is because I wrestled with my views and how and if I wanted to share this story.
Thank you. With everything in me, thank you.