At the tail end of the Vietnam War, I spent three years in the U.S. Army and have not regretted it. In many ways, my military experiences provided a solid footing for the person I eventually became, and they continue to pay back in many small ways even 40 years later.
I grew up in the 1960s, in a small town far removed from the social and cultural upheaval of times. The distant struggle for civil rights and cultural freedom gave me a basis for understanding when I met actual bigotry and small-mindedness in a few fellow soldiers at the time. Honestly, some of the things I heard were astonishingly vile and cruel, and I came to understand that there are some people out there who are filled with hate.
Of course, there were many others who were kind and open, and I still have friends from my long ago Army years. What is so gratifying to see is that we really have come a long way in 40 years, not the least of which is the acceptance of soldiers and veterans themselves as deserving our thanks for their service. At the end of the Vietnam War, such gratitude was hard to find.
So let's remember veterans today. Let's honor their service and remind ourselves that they are learning much more than how to point a gun or steer a tank. They are learning to be the citizens of America's future, and are getting a unique education in that regard.
U.S. Army 1971-1974