This is the story about two men.
Two men who served their country by joining the US Navy and were assigned to the USS Enterprise, the world’s first nuclear powered aircraft carrier.
28 years apart.
(On the right)
One of them had to get his parents’ permission to enlist at 17, determined to serve during Vietnam. He contracted malaria in Africa, which still prevents him from donating blood today. He won over $10,000 dollars playing roulette at a casino in South Africa and after several days of good ‘ol debauchery with his fellow sailors, left with a couple dollars to his name.
The other one enlisted right after high school, putting his college education on hold to serve his country for 9 1/2 years. He spent countless days at sea, including two deployments. He was spat on and called “a white devil” in Bahrain for simply being an American.
I know both of these men. They are the most important men in my life.
…and my step-father.
Despite all of the military service in my family (my grandfather and uncle also served), and even being a military girlfriend/wife for many years, I don’t always take the time to think about what it all really means.
And, it means everything.
While I had the privilege of going to college right after high school, where my biggest worry was (always) getting a good grade and (frequently) having a good time, my husband was protecting this country from a very real and ever present threat and dealing with the crushing loneliness of life at sea.
Nowadays, we set aside our political affiliations, and whether we agree with our military actions or not, we support our veterans. But, it wasn’t always this way. My step-father served during a time when weary soldiers and sailors coming home were not met with gratitude, but with contempt. His service was not celebrated, not respected. Thankfully, as our feelings towards veterans shifted, he can finally receive the thanks that he deserves.
I began writing this post as a specific blog project for the wonderful Amy at Rolling Sin – Sweets After Dark. Truth is, my husband doesn’t want for sweet things and I plan to make something yummy for my step-father next time I see him, so I don’t have a new treat to share. But, please remember, the smallest gesture can mean so much. Thank a veteran for his or her service. Mean it. Give them something sweet. Send them a free card. Adopt a service member through a number of non-profit organizations. Most of all, take a minute to contemplate what it means to serve and the sacrifices that have been made to give you the life that you have.
Be grateful. Today and always.