My brothers John and Jeff are both career Army, my dad served in the Air Force, and my maternal grandfather served in Korea. So Veterans Day has always been special to me.
This Veterans Day, however, I find myself in a new place. About six weeks ago, I guess, Jeff deployed to Afghanistan. Yesterday, John deployed to Kuwait. Though Jeff has been deployed all over, I've never had to experience having two brothers deployed at once. And let me tell you, even though they're both relatively safe, it's still scary. It's also hard when their two wives, five children, four siblings, and parents are left on the homefront to wait and worry about them.
I have no intention here of getting into politics about whether or not we should still be or ever have been in Afghanistan or Iraq. That's not worth getting into here. The fact of the matter is that there are still military members there separated from their families for months at a time, and both those soldiers, marines, airmen and sailors AND their families deserve our honor and our gratitude for the sacrifices they've made.
My dad sent out an email yesterday about a Marine's experience in Iraq and the lessons he was able to take home with him- and all the lessons we on the homefront could learn from him. My brother sent this in response (unedited, except for the removal of the name of his base):
Not intending to take anything away from CPT Campbell, reading through this brought to mind something that I wanted to share.
I hope that this email was as special to you as it was to me. Please, never forget all of our servicemen and women and the sacrifices they and their family have made.Background: Here on the base the "Fallen Warriors" pass through on their way to their final resting place. In respect for the fallen the installation puts out a notice through bulk email that instructs all commands to lower their US flags to half mast for the duration of the stay of the service members remains. I arrived here around the 24th or so of September, and received my first email from Garrison on the 26th. It read... " ALCON, Please lower all United States National Colors to Half Staff in Honor of the Fallen Warrior who has arrived. " I didn't know who this was from but after reading it realized what they did as a small measure to honor the fallen. When I went to dinner that night I looked to the flag pole on the way and the flags were no longer at half mast meaning the Warrior had departed. When I got back to my desk I had the following message in my inbox.... "ALCON,Our Fallen Warrior has departed. All United States National Colors may be returned to Full Staff." Since then I have received them on a somewhat steady basis and have them routed to a folder. As I see the folder go bold I know another fallen service member has arrived or departed. Now as I am out and about and see the flags lowered it is a reminder that this is still a very real war.
I had a very meaningful conversation with my Mom when she had come up to visit prior to my departure. She asked if I thought we should still be in Iraq and Afghanistan. Now in the past I have taken a very neutral stance as to support my commander at all levels and not air my thoughts whether positive or negative. I would begin to recite the oath... "I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States, against all enemies foreign and domestic" That meant I signed up to do a job and I would do that job to the best of my abilities.
But this response was different. As I told it I had a sense of enlightenment as what I said made perfect sense to me (and her). I said that I was going to Afghanistan to support my commanding general in order that he could accomplish HIS mission through guiding his ground commanders so that they might accomplish theirs, and by enabling him through the use of modern technology whether it be email, telephone, portal or a radio if when he needed it it was available then I had accomplished a large part of my mission. And if one of those systems in the hands of the right Soldier could save a life then this deployment would be a success. The other part to look after the Soldier to my left and right and ensure that they remained safe and performed their duties.
This deployment so far has been significantly different than others past. Not the incoming but I am not out searching villages, or air assaulting from town to town. This deployment has me coming back to within a 100ft of the same building I was in nearly 9 years ago to the day. And working in an office with 1,2,3.. 7 monitors of my own and remote access to some very powerful systems. I don't I have regret in knowing that I am not out their beating the street or avoiding IEDs but that every Soldier has a mission, and its how well they perform that mission that counts. I work day to day with the CPT Campbells of world and can see in their faces the years of war we have endured. But you would be proud of them and the job they have done to win the hearts and minds of the Afghan people and try and make this a better place than when they got here.
Wow, I just realized that this is now Veterans Day (11-11-11), for me (0118AM).
Happy Veterans Day!
Happy Veterans Day.