My Husband, the Veteran

 

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.

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  1. Gary McVey Contributor
    Gary McVey
    @GaryMcVey

    What a wonderful post! What a wonderful wife! What a great and thoughtful tribute to someone who never boasts, never so much as talks about himself and his service to America. 

    Denizens of the PIT seldom get sentimental, but without so much as a trace of jest, even appreciative jest, I do declare: thank God for Matt Balzer. Thank God there are still men like him around. 

    • #1
  2. Some Call Me ...Tim Coolidge
    Some Call Me ...Tim
    @SomeCallMeTim

    TRN,

    Fantastic post.  Thank you for writing it.  I am sure that your husband is just as proud of you.

    Some random thoughts:

    If you were married when he was in the Army, you served also.  Those who are left behind when a soldier, sailor or Marine deploys very often have the tougher job.  Holding down the homefront, and waiting, is no easy task and requires a high degree of selflessness.

    Service.  People (usually politicians, community organizers, or public sector employees) talk a lot about public service as if it were some higher good.  Generally, it’s not.  It’s a job, a means to advance their personal interests, or just to be able to tell someone else what to do.  Mr. TheRightNurse chose military service, a type of service that requires putting others before yourself and sacrifice – physical, emotional, mental, and, sometimes, life itself.  Your husband chose true service.

    That he doesn’t talk much about it speaks well of him.  The ones who know don’t brag.

    Sincerely,

    Tim

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  3. TheRightNurse Member
    TheRightNurse
    @TheRightNurse

    Some Call Me …Tim (View Comment):

    TRN,

    Fantastic post. Thank you for writing it. I am sure that your husband is just as proud of you.

    Some random thoughts:

    If you were married when he was in the Army, you served also.

    No such luck.  I was lucky enough to find him after he served.  I don’t know how I would’ve handled it dating him while he served.

     

    • #3
  4. MichaelKennedy Member
    MichaelKennedy
    @MichaelKennedy

    Interesting story.  I used to examine military recruits.  I finally quit when I turned 80.  Lots of interesting stories.  One young man had gone into the Air Force right out of high school, like your husband.  He spent his enlistment working in electronics.  When he got out, he went to the U of Alaska on GI Bill and got a BSEE.  Now, he was going back in the Air Force.  Lots of good stories.

    • #4
  5. Clavius Thatcher
    Clavius
    @Clavius

    Gary McVey (View Comment):

    What a wonderful post! What a wonderful wife! What a great and thoughtful tribute to someone who never boasts, never so much as talks about himself and his service to America.

    Denizens of the PIT seldom get sentimental, but without so much as a trace of jest, even appreciative jest, I do declare: thank God for Matt Balzer. Thank God there are still men like him around.

    Gary, I could not have said it better.

    Thank you Matt and thank you TRN for sharing!

    • #5
  6. Jason Rudert Member
    Jason Rudert
    @JasonRudert

    Awwww

    • #6
  7. Manny Member
    Manny
    @Manny

    On the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month…

    Wonderful post. I thank your husband and all veterans for their service to our country. Such service is truly an act of selfless love. 

    • #7
  8. MichaelKennedy Member
    MichaelKennedy
    @MichaelKennedy

    In England, it is “Remembrance Day” and everyone buys a red poppy.  About ten years ago, my daughter and I got to sit with the Royal Army Medical Corps in Westminster Abbey on that day.  Behind us was the memorial window.

    • #8
  9. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Great post, and God bless all of our veterans.

    • #9
  10. Cow Girl Thatcher
    Cow Girl
    @CowGirl

    My husband joined the Navy in 1973. He’d always planned to serve in the military–his older brothers did, so did his dad. But then the draft numbers came out and his birthday was #3 on the list, so he decided to choose for himself which branch he would be part of and chose the U.S. Navy. It was during a time when many people were dismissive and derogatory to military people. He served for fourteen years and then, because his job/rate was no longer an option, he got out and worked with the military as a civilian for about 25 more years. 

    Now that we’re geezers, he’s developed an interesting pride in his service that I didn’t see before when he was actually serving. He chose license plates for our vehicles (including his motorcycle) that show his veteran status. He proudly acknowledges it and always asks if an establishment offers a discount for vets. He actually showed up to the elementary school where I used to teach when we’d have our veteran tribute flag ceremony the Friday before November 11th. 

    Be proud of your husband. I’m proud of mine. Many veterans won’t brag on themselves. I’m sure it’s because they learned in their service that it wasn’t for themselves. I read this today:  Soldiers [Marines, sailors, airmen] don’t fight the people in front of them because of hatred. They fight because of the love they have for the people they left behind them. 

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  11. TheRightNurse Member
    TheRightNurse
    @TheRightNurse

    Cow Girl (View Comment):
    Be proud of your husband. I’m proud of mine. Many veterans won’t brag on themselves. I’m sure it’s because they learned in their service that it wasn’t for themselves

    It’s very true.  He would’ve raised a ruckus if he’d been home to know I wrote this.   But it wasn’t just for him, but for the many like him who look at their service as a fact, rather than something they should get rewarded for choosing.

    That said,  I’ve convinced him to come out to dinner and take the discount (for once!).

    • #11
  12. Katie Koppelman Coolidge
    Katie Koppelman
    @KatieKoppelman

    Thank you Matt and all veterans for your service! 

    Two of my good friends also joined the military as soon as they were able, one to the navy and one to the marines.  The events of September 11, 2001, I believe, heavily influenced Dylan’s decision to join the marines– at his high school graduation, his mom said he had mentioned doing so just once when he was in 8th grade, 2001-2002.  The terrorist attacks changed the world that day, the day after his birthday, but didn’t change him, just sealed who he is.

    • #12