This is the Memorial Day weekend and this is the obligatory Memorial Day posting.
I didn't join the Army to get thanks or honor on the battlefield. I was raised with a sense of honor and a sense of duty to family that was instilled in me by my parents. I was taught to do the right thing even when the right thing caused me personal pain or expense. It hurts, sometimes, doing the right thing, but you sleep easier at night and you get to look at yourself in the morning.
I joined the Army when it wasn't cool to do so. 1973, the US was coming out of Viet Nam, returning soldiers were subjected to derision. I was a college student suddenly faced with some tough choices. Back in those days, being poverty stricken and a college student were synonymous. The Army was willing to pay me $100.00 per month to go to school which would supplement my janitor's job enough to pay the rent. I signed up and went to basic training at Fort Knox so that I could continue my quest to graduate on time.
When I got to Knox, I found a culture where a man's word counted, where there were no excuses for failure, and there was the ability to shake the dust off and excel. So, I started reading military history and trying to figure out the culture that would lead people to excel in a culture where words like Duty,Honor, Country meant something. I still remember the names of my Drill Sergeants (Anderson, Grice, and Hancock) and I am deeply indebted to them. They made a soldier of me.
Several years later came a time when I was allowed to lead and I found that the greatest challenge in the world is leading soldiers. It is a deeply humbling experience, all at once frightening, exhilarating, exhausting, and uplifting. To be allowed to lead America's soldiers is probably the greatest honor I was ever given. I was allowed help uplift the finest people America has to offer. I promoted soldiers, I buried solders, I laughed and cried and knew that I walked with heroes every day I was in uniform.
Don't thank me, I got much, much more from the Army than it got from me. Along the way I got to play with some very cool toys and do things that many people only dream about. When I retired (from the Guard) in 1999, I realized that I had been given an opportunity of personal adventure. It had been a hell of a ride, but I was too old to play with the younger kids anymore.
Some time tomorrow, I'll slip off by myself and think about the magnificent experience. I'll think about my Brigade, which is engaged in battle in the Middle East, and I'll worry about people I don't even know. That's my Brigade over there and they carry the same colors I carried.
By God, I love the Army.