Veterans’ Day and what it means to me
It's Veterans' Day today. Have you hugged a veteran?
That's not the question of the day, however, but just a reminder of what the day is about. As a person who served all of four years in the Air Force assigned to the Pentagon, to me, today is about honoring those serving, who have served, and those we have lost, leaving us forever in debt to their service.
It's also a day to remember why those who serve do so. People go into the military for many reasons, getting out of small-town-America, seeing the world, paying for college, to do something meaningful, to feel like they're working for something much bigger than themselves, and some join because they believe it's the right thing to do, to serve, protect, and defend the United States of America and her Constitutional processes and guarantees all the while living in an authoritarian type of rule for the duration of the contract.
In a time when the nation is at war with an unknown and borderless enemy we sometimes forget that those that fight truly believe in serving and protecting their country, but a lot of times are stuck following the rules and policies that they're handed. Of course that doesn't excuse following any unlawful orders but, those that serve come from all walks of life in the United States.
There are some that come from very poor beginnings and others that leave the corporate world to help maintain the idea, the experiment, and the life of America. With that said, here's my story after the jump.
In 1999 I wasn't sure how I was going to get out of my parents' home when i graduated from high school and make it in the real world. i didn't have a car, a job, or even any money to submit college. I started to look in to serving in the military. At first I talked to three different recruiters. A Marine recruiter, a Navy recruiter, and finally an Air Force recruiter. After going through all of the pamphlets and brocures I decided on the Air Force because basic training was shorter and I could get a sign on bonus for the career field I wanted.
By August of 2000 I had graduated and signed all the paperwork I needed to and boarded an air plane with 3 other guys who would all wind up in my basic training flight (smallest sub division of troops in the Air Force). I hadn't quite resigned to admitting to myself that I was gay at this point.
In January 2001, eighteen and one half weeks later, I was reporting to my first (and only) duty assignment, The Pentagon. I was put to work right away and got to meet a lot of great people. All the way up to the Secretary of the Air Force and the Chief of Staff. I felt really important. In the barracks, I was just me, quiet, resigned to my room most of the time and frankly to timid to go out and adventure in DC on my own.
By March I had come out to myself, and met my first boyfriend. Within two weeks I was out to my mother, and within four most of my family. Fortunately for me, I have a mostly liberal family and everyone was welcoming. The ones that were conservative said that while they don't agree with my 'lifestyle' they would love me just the same and that I hadn't changed in the least to them. That was nice to hear.
Then came 9/11/2001, and the world changed. Instead of a rather care-free airman, I suddenly was slapped in the face with the real reason for my uniform. America had been attacked. I volunteered many hours to help with security at Fort Meyer where I lived when I wasn't staying with my boyfriend and even showed up the next day. Policies in the office changed and life was spent watching the news, reading reports, and sometimes spending weeks at an undisclosed secure location (not Darth Cheney's)
The months went on, the one month anniversary faded into the one year anniversary. The damaged side of the building had been rebuilt and offices and people returned. All this time, the gay “issue” never reared it's head except whenever I would be asked if I was seeing anyone or why I had not been at the barracks in…weeks. Of course all this time I was seeing one of the contractors in my office so we were never far from eachother, which was very nice indeed. But changing pronouns and using a false name were really starting to take it's toll.
By the start of 2003 many of us were wondering how long we'd be fighting in Afghanistan, and many others were wondering what the build up to Iraq was about. Then we entered Iraq and two months later much to the bewilderment of those around me watched as the Mr. Bush declared Mission Accomplished in a flight suit aboard an aircraft carrier.
The end of 2003 I knew that another four years of the Bush Administration by now I had decided that I didn't want to be in the military much longer. The Air Force had actually given me a way out via “Force Reshaping” which encouraged people to get out via “Palace Chase,” and a Limited Active Duty Servce Committment waiver. I chose the latter mostly because I could not continue to serve a president who could not see me as nothing more than a second-class citizen both in service to my country or as a human being.
I was dicharged under the waiver and not via Don't Ask, but I still fight for the removal of the policy. And for the ideals that the military stands for. I still fight for the idea of America. And that's why I'm still proud of and thank all our service members, and especially those who while fighting for their country were told to leave for loving the person of their choice.
Have you hugged a veteran today?