By Jim Hayes
With the publication date of this edition of “The Settler” being Nov. 11, or Veterans Day, it goes without saying that nearly every veteran will likely hear the platitude, “thank you for your service,” or some variation of it over the course of the next few days.
Although I am not certain, I believe this expression originated as a sort of national mea culpa for greeting our servicemen returning from Viet Nam in 1969 by cursing and spitting on them.
Thus, it has become fashionable to utter the phrase upon determining that someone in a conversation has served in the armed forces.
That being said, it is time to examine exactly what that service entails.
Service is an 18-year-old Marine spending his first Thanksgiving and Christmas away from his family at boot camp, learning to be a Marine.
Service is that same Marine spending the next Christmas and Thanksgiving standing guard duty over an armory in Okinawa, Japan.
It is a sailor battling to secure an aircraft while his ship is being battered by wind, wave and rain in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.
Or maybe it is the soldier hunkered down for two days in a field in Korea while he and his platoon are battered by a typhoon, leaving them to eat out of tin cans until the weather blows over and they can return to their base.
Air and coast guardsmen face similar hardships in the name of service every day of their military careers and here in the states, we rarely give it a thought.
Yes, military service is a choice, but it also is a calling.
Science fiction author Robert A. Heinlein summarized military service perfectly in his book, “Starship Troopers,” when he wrote, “The noblest fate that a man can endure is to place his own mortal body between his loved home and the war’s desolation.”
It is not only war that is desolate.
The Quonset huts shared by a company of Marines in the middle of the Philippine jungles are miles from anything resembling civilization.
Our servicemen currently deployed in the Middle East are in a land with morals, ethics and religious beliefs that are foreign to most of us.
They deal with those differences every day and face consequences should they happen to commit a faux pas.
Even those lucky enough to have assignments stateside are committed to services with which most of us are unfamiliar.
Guard posts are still manned regardless of the hour of the day or even if the day is a holiday.
Planes, trucks and tanks need to be serviced; ships need to be kept on course through weather that doesn’t take a break for the calendar.
Having said all that, “The Settler” wishes to extend a heart-felt thank you to every member of the Volunteer State Community College community who has ever laced up a combat boot, stepped aboard a ship, or flown or maintained an aircraft as a member of the military forces of the United States.
“The Settler” does know what service is and that, in the case of military personnel, service is usually a synonym for sacrifice.
So, thank you not only for your service, but also for your sacrifices.