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It is Veteran’s Day and, as usual, we’re going about our daily lives. We spare a thought for those who died and those who served. I have a particular fondness for a certain veteran, but I think about all of them. I think of the ways they have sacrificed for our country as well as other countries and I feel a sense of borrowed pride.
I have no claim to the pride myself; I never chose to enter the service. My life would be vastly different if I had. I suspect that I would have had much more opportunity, been promoted more quickly, learned new and exciting things that are not regularly taught in nursing school, and at least have my school loans paid off. I might even have a house of my own with one of those fancy VA loans.
Regardless of my own choices, my husband chose differently. Before he even finished high school, he signed his contract (with his parents’ consent) to join the Army. Since he had no formal college plans, he decided to do something worthwhile with his time and join the service. Again, I am struck by this choice. While most students would go to Community College and enjoying living off their parents while they found themselves, he chose differently. He chose to do something, learn skills, travel. Sure, he was putting his life on the line, but the practical uses for his service were many and his excuses were few.
As he tells it, there just wasn’t much reason not to, so he did. He signed on the line and at 18, he went into the Army. He even extended his initial contract and joined up with the Reserves once he was done.
I will spare the personal details of his service and time in the desert since those are his stories to tell (or not, he often doesn’t mention his past).
My husband is a great many things, but one of the things that I am most proud of him for, he barely discusses. He is a Veteran. He chose, at 17 years old, to go to the desert and fight for our country. He made a choice to risk his life while his peers were choosing what kind of seasonal Starbucks was their favorite. He filled out a will while they filled out college applications. When he got out after his first run, he still was unsure of what he wanted to do, so he continued to work in the Army Reserves. His peers would be on their second major, maybe graduated, maybe filling applications to grad school.
Through all of this, he kept making the choice until he had a “better one” to make.
He does not understand why I am so proud of that choice. He does not often speak of this choice, as if it is something that anyone would do. More often than not, people choose to wander aimlessly. They try their hands at this or that. They try different religions, try on new hairdos, try on different locations. They will move out, move in with someone, date someone truly strange for them. They will do all of these things in search of themselves. Themselves.
When given the option to wander, he chose others. He chose service.
My husband rarely talks about his service because he feels it was just a decent default choice. At least he would learn skills. At least, there would be benefits. He did not know if he would come home. He did not know if his skills would ever be used stateside. He was 17 and he offered up his life because he did not have a better path in mind. Service was the best way to use that time.
Though he does not often discuss it and would likely never openly describe what he feels as pride, I do it for him.
I never served in the military. But my husband did.
I am proud of my husband, the veteran.Published in