Today is Armed Forces Day. President Harry S. Truman led the effort to establish a single holiday for citizens to come together and thank our military members for their patriotic service in support of our country. On August 31, 1949, Secretary of Defense Louis Johnson announced the creation of an Armed Forces Day to replace separate Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force Days. The single day celebration stemmed from the unification of the Armed Forces under the Department of Defense.
I was speaking in Washington DC on Thursday and stayed an extra day to tour some of the sights. I spent a good part of yesterday at Arlington National Cemetery and the Women in Military Service for America Memorial. I also visited the Holocaust Museum. I was overcome with emotion thinking about all my brothers and sisters in arms and the sacrifices they made for our freedom.
The Armed Forces Day poster above depicts some of the well known jobs in the military. I didn’t do any of those things shown on the poster. I never jumped out of a plane, flew a plane or helicopter, never drove a tank, shot a weapon in combat or anything else that makes me “unique” from having served my country. I only “flew” a desk. I should be proud of my accomplishments and I am. They don’t just hand the Master Sergeant rank to everyone. You have to work hard and earn it.
The thing that hurts my heart is talking to other veterans who like myself, did “support” type of jobs and feel somehow “less than” for what they did. Many feel like they didn’t do much to be honored for. They say well I only did support, I didn’t do anything special, never saw combat, no big deal. I talked with one veteran who was almost ashamed of his service because he didn’t feel like he made much of a contribution based on not seeing any combat and “only” doing a support job. Every veteran no matter how long they served or what they did sacrificed their lives for the United States as did other allied veterans in other countries military services. They all deserve to be thanked and honored for their service. I think sometimes we get caught up in the hype of what the media covers that we forget that the “everyday veteran” served too.
Any one of us that served at any time did something that only a small percentage of the population has done – served our country. It’s estimated that less than 1% of the population is on active duty in the U.S. Military at any given time (during WWII it was about 9%). So for those of you veterans reading this that flew a desk like I did or did some similar support function, don’t discount your service! You sacrificed part of your life too!
Although I wasn’t in direct combat areas, I personally left my family on many occasions to support the mission, including deployments to places like the Middle East, Tunisia, Spain, and various other places. In the Middle East I was one of a small group (6 total out of 1,000) of people allowed off base daily to go into town to buy things and negotiate contracts to support the base. I prayed every day that we would be safe. We left our vehicles unattended to go into the various suppliers locations. We had to go through an extensive search every time we came back to ensure no one had put a bomb on our vehicle. I could tell when we were out who was watching us to track our whereabouts. We always had to be vigilant and have situational awareness. I sometimes wondered if the vehicle was going to blow up when I turned the key to start it.
I even “deployed” to Galveston Texas back in the late 80’s to support a mission to build a runway and operating base in Honduras. I walked around with a briefcase and a handshake and spent millions of dollars for materials and equipment to build that runway and base. I had truckload upon truckload of supplies and materials delivered to the docs in Galveston to put on a ship heading to Honduras. I had less than a week to get it all done and on the ship. My husband (now “ex) had just returned from a one-year remote tour in Korea just a few days prior to my being deployed. Might not be a deployment where I was in combat but the mission would not have been a success without my skill set and leaving my husband after not seeing him for a several month stretch was tough.
Most people that don’t know anything about the military don’t realize that we all sacrifice, not just the people in the news. Leaving your young children behind to go off for any period of time, moving from place to place frequently and the stress that brings, living abroad for several years or war games in he middle of the night are all things that the average American never has to experience. Then transitioning out of military life into the real world and the struggle to figure out who you are in a totally foreign operation is a significant challenge for most military members.
Even though I was a Contracts Specialist in the Air Force, I did have the opportunity to work as a Computer System Administrator on our mainframe computer system off and on for a total of 5 years during my career. On one occasion, I came up with an idea that no one else saw that freed the section manager from a cypher locked room.
The computer system was housed in a huge air-conditioned room that had a cypher lock on a thick metal door. The door had a small square window. One day, the cypher lock malfunctioned and my supervisor was trapped inside. He called out on the phone and we called the Civil Engineering help desk to get someone over to solve the problem. There were 3 guys working on the door plus me and a couple other’s standing around watching (actually we were taking pics of the guy with his face in the window and giving him a hard time).
The door was secure and they couldn’t get the lock to open and couldn’t figure out how to get the door free. They were considering getting a saw and cutting through the door. I noticed the hinges on the ouside of the door and suggested they pull the pins out of the hinges and pry open the door that way.
For a minute they all looked at me like I was nuts. Then they gave it a go and it worked! The door was open and the supervisor was freed in no time! I didn’t get any commendations for that nor was it on the local news. I had many of those moments in my Air Force career where my quick thinking averted a problem or created an immediate solution. Many more support people come up with innovative quick ideas just like that to avert disaster or solve a problem that would have otherwise led to a mission failure of some sort. There is no “I” in team. While the pilot may fly the plane, it takes dozens upon dozens of people to make it safe and give the tools for him or her to do their job.
This Armed Forces day, I say thank you to all my brothers and sisters who have served and those who continue to serve today. You are all worthy of honor and recognition, no matter what job you did. Stand tall and proud and know that you had a hand in keeping our country the land of the free and home of the brave. Thank you for serving and thank you for your sacrifice. You are all rockstars in my book! God Bless the USA!
[pb_vidembed title=”God Bless the USA – Lee Greenwood” caption=”” url=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q65KZIqay4E” type=”yt” w=”480″ h=”385″]