I am a military brat. I am so proud of the fact that my father dutifully served our country in the United States Army for over 20 years, including during the Gulf War. It’s part of who I am. Growing up as an Army brat provided me the opportunity to travel and meet people from various cultures and religions and have a greater understanding of the world from a very young age. My grandfather served in the US Navy, and now my brother is serving in the National Guard. It’s a heritage of dedication to service.
As a history teacher, it really gets under my skin when people confuse Memorial Day and Veterans Day, but I’ve learned to let it go, simply because I don’t think there can be enough holidays to recognize the amazing things that our soldiers and their families do for all of us civilians.
However, on this Memorial Day, when patriotism and gratitude for our military seems to flow from every set of lips, I wanted to take a moment to address a “stigma” that seems to run rampant among the civilian world. I’ll give you an example.
Several years ago I was teaching a lesson in my classroom and I said something about someone joining the military after high school. A student looked at me and with all seriousness said, “Mrs. Hale, isn’t the Army just for stupid people who can’t get into college?”
(DEEP breath. Do not hit student. Do NOT hit student!! — These were the words running through my head at the time.) I calmly explained to the young woman that if it weren’t for the many, many, many intelligent, brave, and educated men and women who have served our country faithfully, the United States of America would not have prevailed in the many battles we’ve fought since our nation’s birth.
Why is it that many of the same people who openly profess their gratitude for our service men and women actually believe that the military is a calling only for those who can’t do anything else?
And a career in the military is indeed a calling. It calls to those who desire to be better, stronger, and faster. It calls to those who are looking for ways to provide for their families while making a difference in the lives of millions. It calls to those who hold no college degrees, or are highly educated. It calls to those with a sense of duty and honor, and a deep-seeded love for the democracy on which this nation was founded. It calls to those who are braver, more passionate, and more dedicated than most of us could ever be. It calls to those who love to serve, who can be disciplined, and can respond and act within a fraction of a second. It calls to those who are willing to die.
Perhaps my perception of this abundance of ignorance about the military is misguided, but it seems to me that in my life, I’ve crossed paths with multiple people who, while grateful for the service of others, have no idea what the heart of a soldier is like. I don’t know why these people continue to perpetuate the myth that the military is the catch-all for the dregs of society; for those who can’t go to college or aren’t smart enough to do anything else. Wars aren’t won by idiots.
Thank God for those willing to serve, willing to sacrifice time with their loved ones, and willing to die so that we might continue to enjoy our freedoms. I continue to pray that those who enjoy these freedoms will at some point try to understand the valiant, wise, and brave heart of a solider.