(Views expressed are mine only and not of the Department of Defense)
It’s now been almost two and a half months since I arrived at Fort Benning, Georgia, where countless thousands of Army recruits flow through each year, took the oath to defend the Constitution of the United States, and officially became an officer in the United States Army.
The world’s foremost fighting force looks vastly different on the inside than it does from the outside. As a civilian, one would often look at our Armed Forces and see a sea of uniformity. And indeed that is a major strength of our Armed Forces, which takes people of all backgrounds and molds them to the “standard” – as Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, and Airmen ready and able to defend our nation.
Yet beneath that veneer the people are still individuals. They are our neighbors, family, and friends. They watch sports, enjoy good movies, have families, and engage in all sorts of hobbies and fun. The difference is that they balance all that with the extraordinary duties they owe to our nation each and everyday.
In my initial entry Army training I was able to experience and do incredible things that most people only see on screen. I tested my physical, mental, and spiritual limits. I built bonds with people through teamwork and struggle that it is difficult to do otherwise. It was a whirlwind of unparalleled experiences I will never forget, as anyone who has joined our Armed Services can undoubtedly attest to.
Though some moments and tasks were difficult at the time, looking back, I would not have had it any other way. After all, it is precisely that kind of training that has successfully turned millions of American civilians into fierce and capable fighters over the course of our history.
As a civilian, I advocated hard for our military in policy and media. Now as a service-member myself, I understand even more why our military is so deserving of our support and of the incredible people that defend the prosperous society we have built these past two-and-a-half centuries. Being in the United States Armed Forces is truly much more than a mere job, it is a true profession and lifestyle.
Each and every day as an Army officer is a noble opportunity to be a part of a tradition that has kept intact this bastion of freedom and human dignity from some of the darkest forces the world has ever known. It is a chance to excel, to be a part of something greater, and to serve in one of the truest ways there is.
It is also a reminder of the different ways all Americans serve each other every day. This past Veteran’s Day was the first I observed as a service-member and not a civilian. I felt grateful for my brothers and sisters in arms who serve and served alongside me but also felt another sense of gratitude from the new perspective I now have – feeling appreciative of the American people for creating a society so beautiful that it is worth any and every sacrifice.
Sometimes in our culture and discourse it seems that we forget how precious what we have built in our country is. We focus so much on the little bits we differ on and tear each other down. In that navel-gazing we lose sight of the fact of the incredible privilege and opportunity we all have in being here in the United States, where we can pursue our hopes and dreams in ways that even now millions across the world cannot possibly imagine.
All of our holidays are occasions for celebration but so is in fact each and every day, as it’s another day that the American people wake up and go to painting the incredible tapestry that we see in our communities, news, culture, and families.
As now a few months into my service as a United States Army Officer I have come to realize that I can’t help but thank you, the American people, for giving me and my fellow service-members the motivation to work each and every day for you.
And so, thank you.