In my book, “Rough Enough”, Richard Clow at seventeen years of age seems to have been eager to head off to fight in the Civil War in 1864 with his 100 day enlistment followed by a three year reenlistment in the early weeks of 1865. In his case, statements from his letters would indicate that as a young man he was drawn by such ideas as: patriotism, serving one’s country, getting to where the action is, being with a rough tough fighting unit and being in a combat unit rather than one that functions as support.
Veterans know that there were a variety of reasons why they ended up in the military. Some may have been drawn to the military for the same reasons that Richard Clow was. Others may have been involuntarily drafted and were not willing to take the step of leaving their country in order to escape that drafting. Many other military personnel joined in order to learn a trade or skill which would serve them well both in the military and upon return their to civilian life. Others wished to serve while going to school, or even have their schooling paid for because of their military service.
As we look at veteran’s day it is good to look back on those original reasons for being in the military and reflect on how that decision, whether mature or immature, self-serving or giving has affected our lives today.
For myself as a Vietnam era veteran, I know that enlisting allowed me to complete some schooling that would otherwise have been cut short by being drafted, while at the same time cutting off a career path that I had hoped to follow. I now know that some of the skills I learned during my first year had very little use or application in civilian life other than giving me bad dreams. Other portions of my training and experience are still with me today as positive ways of facing the trials of this world directly and confidence, directness and flexibility.
With Veteran’s day upon us, I hope that you as a veteran or a person who knows a veteran will also reflect on the positives and negatives of how your own personal military experience has affected your life and the lives of others. I hope you will share both sides of your story with your friends, children and grandchildren so that they may better understand the importance of military service to our nation and also the hard cost of that service to those who serve and those near them.
Blessings to you all on this important remembrance day.