November 11, 2010

On Veterans Day I want to thank everyone that has served our country, and their family and friends, for their service. As a young naval officer (yep, that’s me), I reluctantly agreed to served.  At the time, I remember thinking that I would never find anything positive about my service,  and I was resentful that I had to postpone my “real life” to serve in a war I didn’t support.

As I look back, I’m a bit embarrassed by my experience. While friends of mine were getting shot (and killed), I had a cushy assignment as a public affairs officer on a nuclear cruiser (the USS Long Beach). I spent my days making sure hundreds of pop machines had cold drinks, that the parade of politicians on “junkets” had what they needed, and that we had current movies for them to watch every night.  Four decades later, the passage of time has allowed me to re-examine my service to my country. What did I learn?

The greatest lesson I learned was that “service above self” shouldn’t just be a Rotary slogan, it needs to be a core value that we pass on to the next generation. I also discovered that you can do things you are convinced you can’t do. In those unhappy days in Vietnam,  I remember saying to myself, “this is the worse day of my life,” but I survived. Focusing on something more important than yourself,  and dealing with situations that test you, these are life lessons that have served me well. 

Yes, our veterans have learned some pretty good life lessons by serving us.  But I don’t think you have to serve your country to learn these lessons. You just have to practice them everyday in your life. So, go out today and do something for someone else, and don’t be afraid to test yourself. Millions of our military are doing just that today.

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