One of my greatest achievements in life was my service to my country while serving in the US Army. I joined when I was 17 years old. My parents had to sign a release form for me to be allowed in because I was not yet of age. I had my 18th birthday while in Boot Camp at Fort Gordon GA.
Why did I join? Well it wasn't to fight wars or become a hero or anything like that. I joined because I really didn't know where else to turn. I knew I wasn't going to college, couldn't afford it. So when I heard that I could attend college while serving in the service, I thought this would be my ticket. Maybe I could still go to college after all. So my reasons for joining the Service was not due to growing up as a child with aspirations of serving in the Armed Forces. In fact I knew very little about the military at that time. Like I said, this was my opportunity to go to college.
On the 2nd day of Boot Camp, the Drill Sargent selected squad leaders from the men in the platoons. Four were chosen and I was one of the four. How he determined that I was a leader within only the first two days of Boot camp I'll never know but never the less I was chosen and given the task and responsibility of leading my own squad of about a dozen men. Pretty scary for me when you consider I knew no more than the other guys but now I'm in charge! I found this new role very difficult because not only was I learning a whole new way of life but I was responsible for other men learning as well. After a few weeks I began to feel more comfortable in my new role as Squad leader and had even earn the respect of the men in my squad. After 12 weeks of Boot camp, we graduated, and I was given a commendation and certificate tiltled... the "most distinguished gentleman's award." I'd come along way since day one of Boot Camp but more importantly I grew up and matured a lot during those days. I learned about honor, respect, discipline, and sacrifice. I learned more about commitment and hard work than I ever dreamed I could. I began to see myself as a leader, and not just a leader, but a leader that was recognized as someone that was a gentleman during the process (Didn't see much gentleman leadership in those days, it was more along the lines of a dictatorship) so I was very proud of this award.
Later I did go to college during some of my tours of duty but in the end I never finished. After four years of service and making it to the rank of Sargent, I finally decided to get out of the military and go back to civilian life. I'll never forget when I announced to my commander that I would be getting out after making the decision not to re-enlist. He couldn't believe it and many thought I was kidding. You see, to everyone else that I served with, I was know as a "Lifer." In other words, I was in the military for life! I was very Gung Ho, and committed in my service and I truly did enjoy and loved serving my country. What had began as a way to get to college, actually turned into a love for my country, my flag, and what I stood for as an American Soldier. I may have started this journey in the military with other motives, but in the end, it was about service to my Country.
Why did I get out? Unfortunately for my wife, the service was not her love and joy. I spent many days away from her on training missions and honestly my career in the Army was rough on our marriage. I felt that if I stayed in I might lose her, so I chose my wife and our commitment to each other over my life in the Army. I've never regretted getting out, it was the right thing to do at the time. I've also never regretted my time of service in the US Army. I would not trade those four years of active duty service for anything. The values and discipline I had learned while in the Army, I have used everyday of my life as a leader. To this day I can't hear the National Anthem without getting teary eyed. When I see the Amercian Flag flying high on a flag pole I get a feeling of pride within me. When I see soldiers in uniform, I'm so thankful for their service.
Memorial Day for me is a special day. It's a reminder to me and all of us, that our freedom comes at a cost. The freedom we take for granted... was paid for with the blood of soldiers. On Memorial Day we stop and reflect on that for a minute, and I hope it moves you as it does me. But I suspect for many people, this day could be difficult to understand. Maybe even have very little meaning to you unless you have been touched by it in some way... either knowing someone that has served, knowing someone that has died in their service, or maybe like me, you have served. Hopefully you realize the price for freedom and appreciate and can show your respects to the fallen soldiers that paid that price. Men and women that have given the ultimate sacrifice so that others may live free.
Seems freedom always comes at the spilling of blood. Jesus Christ gave the ultimate sacrifice. He gave his life and shed his blood so that we could have eternal life (freedom from sin). To live free, cost so much doesn't it? Maybe this Memorial Day we'll not only remember the fallen soldiers, but also the One that fought the ultimate battle for each and every one of us. The One that died and shed His blood so we all could live as free people. His name is Jesus Christ. May every day be a Memorial Day for Christ.
God bless the men and Women that serve in the our Armed Forces, and may we remember with gratitude and respect, those that gave their lives for our Country. Amen.