This is a repost from last year. Not sure I can say it any differently.
I am not a veteran. I know many veterans. My father was in the Air Force back in the day and earlier I posted about my grandfather who was in the Navy. I have had many cousins and such in every branch of the armed forces. However I am not a vet.
Back in 1983, I wanted to fly jets. No, it wasn’t a Top Gun thing, I had wanted to do that for years. So some time during my junior year, the armed forces recruiters were allowed on campus. Schools weren’t bastions of liberal pussies back then like they are now. Students didn’t wet themselves because the military was on campus. I met with an Army guy who in turn referred me to an Air Force guy. I talked at length with him and he was all gung ho about me flying. Now I didn’t tell this to my parents because at the time, I wasn’t sure how they would react. Not anything against the military, but they were hoping I would go to college. It seems that nobody on my father’s side has ever been to college, I would be the first. So I quietly explored my options. Also as I mentioned my father had been in the Air Force but pretty much refused to talk about it. “I got it, did my time and got out” was the extent of what he would tell me. I don’t know his rank, what he did, nothing. He won’t say. On that basis I was pretty sure he wouldn’t like the idea of me joining, hence the stealth.
I met with a recruiter in their office a week or so later and that is where my dreams fell apart. Within about 10 minutes I was politely told that with my crappy eyesight that I would never be allowed to fly a jet. I MIGHT be able to learn to fly a helicopter, but no guarantees. Well I was floored. I left there with anger in my heart. Up until then I was all about the military. WW2 history was big with me and I was into playing war-type games of all sorts. Now I had nothing but disdain.
I stewed upon that for my whole senior year. Recruiters again came after me and I briefly thought about trying to join the Navy. Maybe I could get on a carrier, that would be cool. But it never materialized and off to college I went.
In the years to follow I have often wondered ‘what if’. I have some friends I see regularly now that speak nothing but good things about their experiences, the few times they do speak about it. Most of the vets I know don’t really like to talk much about their time. I have two friends who served on subs and like to talk about it. I have a cousin who served on a carrier and thought it was the best thing in the world. A poker buddy was in the Marines who says he really has nothing to say about it, but wouldn’t trade his experiences for anything. I have a few cousins spread over the remaining branches. I have a friend or two that are pretty fucked in the head with PTSD. I feel for them so bad. There is nothing that I myself can do except be there for them if needed. Know this: veterans have my respect for doing what I never did. You still might be an asshole, but for your service you will have my respect. For those who are out and doing well, I hope things continue to go your way. To those with medical issues, I hope that someday you can find peace and health.