Sacrifice of Service

July 19, 2011
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Dear Fellow Americans,
As Independence Day approaches, please remember that your freedom is not free. As a former military officer, I remember enlisting and feeling full of excitement about serving my country and its citizens. I got a tattoo of an eagle, a symbol of strength and pride. When you are young and idealistic, your focus is only on the positive aspects of service. Although I do not regret my time in the military, I did not realize fully the sacrifices I would be making the day I signed my life over to this great country.
Much of my time in the military was spent away from my loved ones. Leaving for boot camp was difficult, but I knew it was training and I would be returning home. Nothing can really prepare you for your first deployment though. The reality of the situation sets in as does the loneliness. Even though I was surrounded by my brothers in arms, I often felt alone. We all did. Our loneliness connected us because we were so disconnected from everything that we knew---familiar places and familiar people.
Imagine me, a country boy from farm country being in the Middle East. The vast desolate landscape of hills and sand dunes also made me feel alone. As if the consistently unbearable heat was not enough, my uniform and equipment made me feel more miserable. Moving from place to place, the only thing to call my own were the clothes on my back and the property issued to me. While I knew my service was for the good of others, those “others” did not always appreciate our presence.
Combat stress, such as post traumatic stress syndrome, can cause many problems in the return to a normal life for soldiers. They feel that they are always on edge and do not fit into a regular situation the way others do. This creates loneliness and a sense of longing for a companion who is like themselves.
Returning home is a situation with strong emotions and intense happiness. Our families have routines that we don’t recognize and people seem to have gotten along just fine without us. To make matters worse, some soldiers deal with the effects of battle that can make the transition back to normal life difficult. It is hard to adjust to desk work or a calm environment when you are used to war and the constant fear.
With the death of Bin Laden and the President’s promise to bring a large number of troops home by next summer, I urge you to let the men and women who serve you so proudly know how grateful you are for their service. Service to humankind, albeit rewarding, can be a very isolating and lonely experience. It is ironic that independence, our pursuit of life, liberty and happiness, too often costs soldiers their own lives, liberty and happiness. When our fore fathers said “all men are created equal”, they were not considering soldiers. Soldiers are willing to do what the average person is not, sacrifice all for the benefit of others.

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