This I Believe

Michael - Tulsa, Oklahoma
Entered on March 2, 2007
Age Group: 18 - 30
Themes: war

WI believe our nation’s military veterans are a national treasure…

When I was a senior in high school, the movie “Saving Private Ryan” debuted in theatres. Having an avid interest in military history, I couldn’t wait to see it and when I finally did, I was in awe. The gripping fight scenes, men gutting it out in dire if not almost impossible situations, sacrifice…Ever since then it has been one of my top action films. I also remember hearing about hotlines for WWII veterans who went to watch it. If they needed to talk about it, they could, but I never really thought about why they would need to. Now I know why.

About two years later, I myself enlisted into the Army Reserve. I went through all the usual training and after a few years, 9/11 happened. Within a year and a half I was deploying to Iraq with unit from Kansas. I’ll never forget the day we left that small town, in buses or in our military trucks. It seemed like the whole community had lined the streets to send us off. I remember looking out the window of my truck at a group holding an American flag. They were Vietnam Vets, waving and giving us “thumbs up”. A few were in tears. Now I know why.

My tour in Iraq was filled with a multitude of experiences. Good, bad, funny, and sorrowful. I realized how much it means to have friends who will do anything for you no matter what. And how that friendship and love can last a lifetime. I remember the stress of pushing away the possibilities of never seeing the ones you love again, or meeting the goals you set in life.

I also remember thinking how similar, and also how different my experiences must be compared to all of those who had served before me. I flew halfway around the world in less then a day. Imagine taking a boat? I was out-fitted with top of the line equipment, good clothes…Compare the M-16, close air-support, and satellite info with what an American G.I. in WWII had.

I understood that no matter how bad I thought I had it, others surely must have had it worse.

Coming home, I joined the local VFW of which my grandpa was a member. A twenty-four year old hanging out with some of the greatest old-timers you could meet. All of us part of a brotherhood. Forged in sweat, hardship, loss, patriotism, tears, and maybe even blood. And it struck me how we don’t realize how precious the time we have is with these wonderful individuals. From my 80 year old grandpa, and all of those who were in Germany, the Pacific, and Korea. To the fathers and uncles who marched and flew over the Jungles of the Far East. To the kid, hardly out of high school, grinding it out for all of us a world away today. Never forget what they have gone, and are going through and how truly blessed we are that there are those who do make such sacrifices. Remember, that even if you don’t agree with a conflict, past or present, men and women of all ages have and continue to meet challenges most people can’t even imagine. Cherish them, for they are all a blessing. And now I hope you know why…