As Veteran’s Day comes around this year, it’s easy to conjure a stereotypical image of a veteran that you might feel gratitude toward. This year, instead, why not make it personal and look around campus?
At the (not-so) ripe age of 18, we all made decisions that would define the rest of our lives, even if we haven’t realized it yet. There are two distinct paths that make up a large part of our generation’s choices: college or military service. Both paths are good choices and both are necessary to better society.
There are similarities between the two paths. One similarity can be found very close to your television set. Yes, wherever there are folks our age around the world, whether they’re busy not studying for an exam or whether they’re between shifts stationed at Qatar, video game consoles will be found.
Another less cheerful example of the similarities between young veterans and college students is the homesickness we all feel, though some may not admit it. Whether you’re plucked from home and dropped twenty miles down the road in campus housing or you’re stationed somewhere far from home, there are elements we all miss from our homes, from mom’s hugs to the local culinary fare.
But it’s the differences young college students and young veterans have that are striking and that showcase the reason for a day dedicated to veterans. That they protect our freedom is an obvious reason to be grateful, but taking a moment to look at the daily lives of veterans, compared to ours, might bring that gratitude closer to home.
The choice to serve one’s country through military service has a long list of domino effects. For instance, sleeping in is no longer an option. Four a.m. wake up calls and twelve-hour weekend shifts become a new reality for many. Staying out late partying is much less of an option, though not absent by any means. But considering showing up to work hung over could potentially lead to jail time, especially for those who are arming up, it’s got an added element of danger.
Dating is still an option, though doing so between six month and yearlong deployments might be troublesome.
Wearing a uniform everyday certainly slims down the morning routine, but it can also be monotonous and a bit uncomfortable with dress uniforms.
Going to school while serving is not as easy as the many active duty military members walking around campus each day are making it seem. Troops must fight off shift changes, late-notice deployments and sleep deprivation to make it possible.
Winter and spring breaks come and go with families missing each other, babies are born without fathers present, 21st birthdays pass with no alcohol in sight, federal holidays are spent manning the post. The list goes on and on.
As we reflect on Veteran’s Day, make it personal. Beyond the larger narratives of Veteran’s Day, think of the detailed differences you and any random soldier, airman, marine, sailor or coastguardsman have in your day-to-day life.