I spent nearly 22 years in the United States military (Navy). Recently, in 2016, as part of my “bucket list scratch off,” I took the family to visit Chimney Rock, North Carolina, during our son’s spring break. In March, the weather was still cool, so I put on my ball cap without really thinking about it, which said, “US Navy Retired,” across the front of the cap. I was extremely moved by how many ordinary Americans, who did not know me, came up to me and said, thank you for your service. When it initially happened, I was embarrassed. I did not know what to say. I sheepishly said…you are welcomed. I had taken it all for granted. America owes me nothing. I am thankful for the privilege to be an American.
If you have ever had the privilege to honorably serve in the military, then you know that it is a bond for life. I reflected back to when I was in the Navy, and the ship would be on deployment, where I stood many watches, being eternally vigilant, barely getting more than two or three hours of sleep each day between watches. Visiting other countries, I realized that even with all of its real and/or perceived short comings and imperfections, America is still a GREAT country; the best country on earth, worth fighting for and defending. In my early days as a sailor, a few of my buddies and I had a ritual as we counted the days and anticipated returning home. Upon arrival from being at sea, we would request permission to go ashore; salute the flag; walk down the brow of the ship; find a spot, and literally “kiss the ground;” (pavement) look toward the sky and say…THANK GOD FOR AMERICA!
The defense of America relies upon an all-volunteer military force. In my opinion, the force that protects America is driven by two qualities: (1) An unquenchable and burning commitment, patriotism, and passion to serve; and, (2) the selfless devotion and unselfish love of country. The success of Americans depends upon the protection of America. So…always thank a vet! Many have given and paid the ultimate price so that we know the feeling to BE FREE.
Recommended for patriotism, love of country, encouragement, and enlightenment: Diversity settings, all transitioning military veterans, active duty military, military retirees and dependents, high school or college graduates/attendees, business offices, military settings, churches, religious or spiritual settings, sports, government, or general settings for conversation and reflection.