What Being a Veteran Means To Me
From a young age I think we all start to get impressions of what being a Veteran means. In Cub Scouts it meant that I got to see which dads were the “cool” dads at our yearly banquet. Veterans were also people in movies who got to come back and kiss a pretty girl when they got off a ship. Veterans, in my young mind, were also the guys who got to have the great fun of driving army vehicles around Fort McCoy. I thought that driving thing was going to be the cool part of being in the Army; I learned on my first convoy that my coolness perception of long drives with army vehicles was grossly mistaken.
Today, I am at a point in my life when my perception of what being a Veteran means is changing into anticipation of becoming a Veteran myself. And, if you are anything like me you are anticipating it too.
As I look forward to becoming a Veteran I realize that what I have experienced here will be with me for the rest of my life. While I know I am not a combat style soldier, I have learned here what it actually means to be a soldier beyond the glitz of what Hollywood, the News Media, and AFN commercials presents it as.
Being a soldier means having a willingness to leave behind the familiar in order to do what needs to be done. I am not for a minute going to confuse the terms “willingness” and “excitement.” I always reflect on how when I was told I was going to finally deploy I was a bit shocked to be honest. But, I was ready. And, throughout the training we received, this going to war thing went from being theoretical to a fact. From the pre-mobilization process and into this deployment I am constantly amazed by the great group of people who have this shared experience with me. We have all sacrificed our everyday lives just to be here.
To risk using a hockey metaphor being a Veteran will mean I’ve sat in a penalty box unable to participate in my regular game of life. Watching from the sidelines that are the internet. But, being in a penalty box is not a bad thing, in this instance. I have had time here to regroup and think about what my life will be when I go home. I have made plans and decisions that will make this year possibly more productive for my home life than if I had been there.
Lastly, very honestly, being a Veteran means the times we spent together. The daily walks to the DFAC, smiling and/or saluting as I go by familiar faces and sitting in meetings, oh man have there been meetings, with one another. It also means sitting in bunkers, telling jokes, and even complaining with one another.
So, while I can only predict what being a Veteran will personally mean to me, I know that this time we have spent together will always be with me.