Tuesday, November 12, 2013

In Honor of Veterans' Day, Belatedly

Having returned recently from a combat zone and having spent my twenties as a military officer, Veterans' Day is a special holiday for me. This year it was a bit more special because of how Continental Airlines treated veterans who were like me traveling that day: they let the veterans board the aircraft first. Although I am a Vietnam Era vet, I did not actively fight in that war (that was before women were permitted in combat, so I was restricted to matters of intelligence and combat support). So, I felt like a bit of a fraud taking advantage of Continental's kind gesture; there are many soldiers, sailors, airman, and marines who served in the hot spots (my few days in Afghanistan, in my mind, do not count). Therefore, I let the others on first and embarked when my zone was called. (Besides, I do not look like a vet; I look like a mother, or grandmother.)

Nonetheless, I have many powerful memories from my eight years in the military and my nearly twenty years providing educational services to those serving Uncle Sam in one way or another. Some of those memories are dramatic, intense, and reflective of the stereotype of what happens in the military. Those of us who have served, however, know those stereotypes to be a bit skewed. I have more humorous memories than serious ones. To celebrate those humorous memories, let me share an anecdote I heard recently. (I am not sure of the source, but I believe it may have been published in Readers' Digest.) I hope you will enjoy it as much as I did.
A sergeant and a lieutenant are sleeping out in the field when the sergeant woke up. He nudged the lieutenant awake and asked, "Sir, look at all those stars in the sky. What does it tell you?"

The lieutenant cogitated a moment, then replied, "It tells me how small we really are, no matter what we think of ourselves, how infinitesimal we and all are affairs are in a grand, capacious universe.

"Well, sir," answered the sergeant. "It tells me that someone stole our tent!"
While the sergeant's unexpected response brings a chuckle, there are some facts of military life that are revealed in this anecdote. In fact, this anecdote does not depart much from my personal experience, and much of what I know to do and do do today can be traced to my military days.
- It was the sergeants and the warrant officers who took me under their wings as a butter bar (second lieutenant in the US Army) and taught me everything I needed to know as an officer.

- The mentoring I received in the Army has taught me to mentor
others, both those who are junior to me and those who are senior to me in rank but not knowledge.

- Success in the military depends on team esprit and working together to take the objective. Success in every subsequent work assignment I have ever had has depended on working collaboratively with others. The best-bonded teams are simply the best teams period.

- Perhaps that easy-and-forever bond comes from having known that your life depended on your fellow soldier and his/hers on you. SMy best buddies are still my military buddies. Many have dropped in over the years when they are in town, expecting to bunk with me without prior discussion; I have done the same.
I could go on, but I think the picture is clear. I may not notice that my tent has been stolen, but I do know who and where my friends are and what a difference the group makes. I would much prefer to be one of the flock of lambs, even the lost hundredth, than the lone wolf.

Happy belated Veterans' Day. Sorry for the two-day delay, an artifact of my life being up in the air so much of the time.

(For a related, heartwarming read, I refer you to a post about the late Mike Mansfield, beloved Senator from Montana, capable ambassador to Japan, and humble marine.)


  1. It's never too late to post about this sister! I think everyday should be a day to remember everyone serving to preserve our freedom. Happy Veteran's Day to you! And do not take your role lightly. Any task, whether big or small, still is beneficial for the whole mission. Kinda' like what we do in the church...So, you deserve to board that plane among those who also served.

    Funny story but I like the way you put nuggets from that story. Just dropping by to say a warm hello and may the Lord bless you and protect you.

  2. What a nice reflection. I am still laughing at the tent anecdote. (Sounds like something that would be in Readers Digest...)

    God Bless.

  3. Thanks for your kind words, Rcubes. I am glad you liked the post.

    Michael -- glad you had a good laugh. I did, too!