Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day - A Personal Perspective

I joined the Air Force in 1971 -- graduated from high school in May, and entered basic training on September 13th. It would be a few years before Vietnam wound down.  They taught us how to run and climb, how to shoot, how wear gas masks. We knew that we were in the military and might have to fight, but the overwhelming feeling was that odds are we wouldn't -- especially in my career field -- so we could concentrate on getting our education, racking up some GI bill and having a life. But we drilled, we served, we prepared, we supported, all through my 20 years.  Less than a year before I retired, the first Gulf War broke out. Certain career fields were held up; retirements / leaves were cancelled. Depending on the career field, some people were even pulled back into service after discharge.  I retired on schedule.

Today when people join the military -- especially the Army and Marine Corps -- I don't believe there's that kind of delusion because these two services are first line of defense. If there's "stuff" going on... when they join,  they pretty much know they're going to see some combat time.  Such is the case with my oldest son, Kelvin.  He joined the Army in January of 2002 -- less than 4 months after 9/11. Since then he's done two tours in Iraq, and is now serving in Afghanistan. I said initially that he didn't know what he was getting himself into, but he's re-enlisted twice so far, and clearly there was no doubt what the score was when he re-enlisted each time, and he still made that choice.  I don't tell him often enough, but I have immense pride and respect for him. I love you, son, and I'm proud of you.

My baby boy, Michael, joined the Navy in May of 2004. For sure, he had a whole different mind set than Kelvin, Jr.  Michael went in the Navy to grow up... and he's done a lot of that. I'm pretty sure that war zones weren't on his mind at the time, especially since his initial assignment was two years on land in Italy. But he re-enlisted, too. And now he's assigned to one of the Navy's most advanced warships -- a guided missile destroyer. He was on the crew that took it from Bath, ME to commissioning and now officially operational and preparing for it's true mission. So in a couple of months, he'll probably be in one of those zones. It's been interesting watching him grow from the pig-headed teenager into the military man he is today. He complains a bit more than Kelvin Jr, but when it's time to get the job done... he's all Navy. I don't tell him often enough, but I have immense pride and respect for him. I love you, son, and I'm proud of you.

We all need to have tremendous pride and respect  for anyone who joins any branch of the military today. There's no draft, so everyone who goes in, goes in on purpose.  And everyone who stays in, stays in on purpose. There are many among us who would not take up the challenge and the risk of being a military member, but we all benefit from the dedication and sacrifice of the ones who do.

When you see a military person, say "thank you" like you mean it -- he or she is a VOLUNTEER.  They don't have to be there; they don't have to stay, but they do. They know what the score is, and they do it anyway. And regardless of what you think of the war, you should have pride, and respect and gratitude... for the military man and woman who was -- and is -- willing to voluntarily fight it.

When you make out your gratitude list tonight... be sure to include them on it.

Have an awesome day.

Kelvin P. Ringold, Sr, MSgt, USAF, Retired
Proud & Grateful Parent of TWO Military Men


Mitch said...

Nicely written, Mr. Ringold. Even though I never joined, I have nothing but the utmost respect for anyone who serves this country in this manner.

Kelvin Ringold said...

Thank you Mr. Mitchell. I appreciate your sentiment. I hope you had a great day.

rscuderi said...

Well said! Greetings and gratitude from a military wife.