On this Veteran’s Day 2016, I want to republish this piece from earlier this year and dedicate it to all those brave men and women who answered the call to serve in defense of our great nation. We owe them a debt that cannot be repaid:
In 1979, my best friend Mike Lowe and I enlisted at the old U.S. Army recruiting station on Ridgewood Avenue when skipping classes at Daytona Beach Community College got old. . .
We were 19-years old when we boarded a Greyhound bus for Ft. McClellan, Alabama.
I want to begin by saying that my time in service pales in comparison with others – in fact, it doesn’t deserve to be mentioned in the same company with those of you who fought in combat, deployed to a war zone, or actually sacrificed during peacetime.
You have my utmost thanks and respect this Veterans Day, and every day.
I wasn’t a recruiting poster soldier, I’ll admit.
Like most, I complained about everything – it’s too hot, it’s too cold, hurry up and wait, etc. – and to say that we had more fun than any two Army Privates before or since is an understatement.
I didn’t earn any medals – but I did drink a lot of beer.
Today, when someone asks me what I did in the Army I say, “I can’t tell you.” And they ask, “Classified?”, and I say, “No. Statute of Limitations. . .”
While Mike was promoted to Specialist 4th Class, I was reduced in rank due to company-level discipline three times – I spent A LOT of time on KP and extra-duty – and I deserved every miserable minute of it.
(In fact, I think I’ve personally cleaned out every grease trap in every mess hall from here to West Point. . .)
While I can’t take much pride in my personal contribution – I am extremely proud of what the Army gave to me:
They took an irresponsible, stupid little boy and made a man in a very short period of time. (Thank you Senior Drill Sergeant Ainsworth – I owe you more than you know.)
They taught me valuable skills that formed the foundation of a very successful law enforcement career – in fact, Military Police School was among the best police training I ever experienced – and that includes the FBI National Academy.
They taught me to respect tradition – and the importance of committing yourself to something larger than your own self-interest.
They taught me how to put ego aside and work cooperatively with a group of diverse people to achieve a common goal.
They taught me attention to detail.
They taught me to never quit – and that you can always put one foot in front of the other – despite how tired, sick and beat-down you may think you are.
They gave me a sense of pride and patriotism that only someone who has endured basic recruit training in the armed forces can appreciate.
And best of all, the experience allowed me the opportunity to serve with some of the finest men and women I have ever known – some of whom fought in Viet Nam, and others who went on to serve with distinction in Iraq and Afghanistan.
All of them remain life-long friends.
After six years – by the grace of God – I received an Honorable Discharge (Pvt. E-2) from the 345th Military Police Company (EG) U.S. Army Reserve.
It seems the older I get the prouder I am of this wonderful experience – and the men and women I served with.
Thank you to all who answered the call and served in defense of this great nation.
I am extremely proud to have played a very, very small part, and I always will be.