“The soldier above all others prays for peace, for it is the soldier who must suffer and bear the deepest wounds and scars of war.” ~ General Douglas MacArthur
I admire those who can honestly say they have no regrets, but I am not numbered among them. I console my conscience by rehearsing a litany of my own from time-to-time and vow never to repeat self-inflicted wounds, but one I can never rectify resides near the top of my list. The Vietnam war ended with the fall of Saigon on April 30, 1975, which coincided with the home stretch of my sophomore year in high school. Although the military draft had ended in 1973, I voluntarily registered under the Selective Service Act when I turned eighteen, and began planning to enlist in the US Army upon graduation. To say I was gung-ho would be understatement. Much to my mother’s chagrin and father’s consternation, I joined a group of would-be soldiers in Beaumont to take the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) two weeks following high school graduation. Talk of a possible appointment to West Point Military Academy surfaced during my exit interview with Sergeant Culbertson, and I agreed to postpone enlisting to allow the required official process to took place.
While awaiting governmental next-steps, I went to seek my pastor’s approval because he had been instrumental in helping me to come to grips two years earlier with a sense of divine call to Christian ministry. He refused to tell me what to do, but a series of well posited questions dislodged my cocksureness about military service. Mom and Dad were visibly relieved when I decided to forego the Academy and accept a scholarship to East Texas Baptist College instead, but that life-altering choice became an unending watermark that resurfaces with very little prompting. A few years ago I attempted to enlist in the Army Reserves and National Guard as a chaplain, but was rejected by each because of my age. I wrote to the President protesting that decision, but received no reply. The window had closed on military service.
Why this Veteran’s Day confession? I cannot rectify my choice to follow an alternate path, but I can and will thank those who chose to travel down the path of military service. Each time I glance at my father’s tank commander helmet atop my bedroom shelves I remember my father’s service during the Korean conflict, and I am grateful. I try to always express appreciation when I spot a senior adult proudly displaying a ball cap or jacket identifying himself as “Veteran.” Words fall woefully short of expressing the value and depth of sacrifice these brave women and men displayed, but to all who have and are serving this country in any branch of military service, my heart salutes you and I thank you for your service.