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These words are my diary screaming out loud

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

A month of thanks: Day 20

Today, I am really thankful that I never had to go to Iraq or Afghanistan.

Let me explain. I'm currently reading the e-book extra of In The Shadow of Greatness. This is the part where my story, along with 20 or so others that didn't make it into the hard copy of the book. So many of my classmates talk about how bothered they were about being on ships far away from the land campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan, and how they volunteered to go over there to be part of it.

I had exactly the opposite reaction during my time in the Navy. While I was on the ship in the Northern Arabian Gulf, or Persian Gulf as its also known, within only a short distance of both Iraqi and Iranian international waters, and only 12 more miles beyond that to their shorelines, I was thanking my lucky stars that this was as close as I was getting. When my name was added to a list of people being put in for an individual augmentation (we called it being voluntold instead of volunteering) I was scared to death that I would actually be chosen, and so relieved when I wasn't. When I found out that my shore duty station was essentially IA-proof, I was thrilled that I would be able to get out the end of that tour without having had to go overseas. When I found out that the Navy had accidentally completed separated me instead of just transferring me to the Inactive Reserve like they were supposed to, I was freaking out that they were going to reward me for their mistake with an all-expenses paid trip to the desert.

I've often been a bit ashamed of this, and afraid to say it out loud. But the truth is, I didn't sign up for that. I didn't sign up for the Marine Corps or the Army. I signed up for the Navy, and didn't even get to do what I actually wanted to do in the Navy - I wanted to fly, and I ended up on ships. That doesn't change the fact, though, that reading the stories of my classmates who volunteered to go over and who had extremely rewarding experiences while there makes me wonder if I didn't miss out a little bit.

Today, though, I'm saying it. I'm thankful I didn't have to go. I'm thankful that while we had some scares on the ship, I was never truly in harm's way. Does that make me feel a little undeserving when people thank me for my service? Sure. But honestly, I volunteered to serve, and had I been told to go to Iraq or Afghanistan, or anywhere else for that matter, I'd have done it. But I'm REALLY glad I never had to.

(I feel like I'm rambling a little here, like I can't quite find the words I want to use to express my feelings. I hope I'm getting my point across.)

But let me make this perfectly clear. As thankful as I am that I didn't have to go, I am even more thankful for those that did and that continue to do so. There is not a person in the military today that did not choose to either join or stay in knowing full well that their chances of going to either or both places were extremely high. There is not a person in the military today who did not CHOOSE to put their lives on the line if called to do so. I am incredibly thankful to the Matt Freemans and the Jen Harrises, the Ronnie Winchesters and JP Blecksmiths and Travis Manions and Jonas Kelsalls. Google them all. Every time I'm thanked for my service, I say you're welcome, but I pass it on to these folks.

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