November 10th is the Marine Corps Birthday. The best day of the year. November 11th is Veterans Day. As a junior in High School I joined the US Army National Guard. Having lived on a small boat with my parents in the years leading up to basic training in Fort Knox Kentucky I was pretty happy in basic training. I went from living in an 18 inch wide pipe berth on an inch of foam to having a full size bed with springs. They even had running water and flush toilets! When I left for basic training, high school really didn’t make sense. When I got back to high school as a senior it really didn’t make any more sense.
I wanted to go active duty. So, at the end of High School I transferred into the Marine Corps. Almost a year to the day after I graduated from basic training in Fort Knox I stood on the foot steps at MCRD San Diego. I actually liked basic training and boot camp. I really wanted to go to Force Recon for that reason (I’m not very smart). Boot camp was hard for all the reasons you shouldn’t get married as an 18 year old. The stuff they were training was much easier than living on a boat or being married to a red head at too young of age.
I was not a pretty Marine. I was not a super-fit Marine. I wasn’t some kind of special operator. To be honest I wasn’t a very good Marine. I didn’t see combat. I didn’t even leave the United States as a Marine. I just did whatever I was told, tried to stay out of trouble (usually failed), and generally was just an adequate Marine. My service wasn’t anything like you see in some YouTube video, it wasn’t like what you see from social media celebrities. It wasn’t an alcohol sodden, sexual fetishized, screaming, mind numbing mind fuck. It just was.
Like many I don’t want to be thanked for my service since I volunteered. The Army and Marine Corps gave me many tools and I admit fully I got much more out of my experience than I ever gave in service. I’ve always tried to give back more than I got. I became a law enforcement officer and helped veterans in jail find resources. I worked with mental health professionals to get veterans help with a variety of issues. I worked in industry and used the leadership I was taught to not suck at leadership. I support several Veteran charities like the Semper Fi fund, and Warrior Sailing. It is never enough.
I went on to become very successful in academia and fought for my reserve and veteran students in that “I’m your advocate not your mommy” way they fully understood. I got a doctoral degree in something that doesn’t suck. I taught or lectured at every US service war college, the National Defense University, and several of the service academies. I was a member of the intelligence community and tried to take care of my veteran employees. I’ve been critically injured, had a child die in a car accident, been divorced, stressed, done things very few could have done, seen a big chunk of the world, and I owe overcoming every obstacle in my life to volunteering at a young age to do something people today don’t think is cool.
I wasn’t a good soldier, and I wasn’t a very good Marine. I’d like to not suck as a veteran.
All I can say is thank you to every other person who as a youngster also signed up, gave up things others will never know they have, and did what needed to be done.