Just Me

Just Me
Look,I'm just sayin'

Sunday, July 16, 2017

an unanswered question

 It is a popular expression right now, " thank you for your service. " You hear people say that all the time. I hear it all the time. I'm never quite sure how to respond. A simple you're welcome is all I usually manage. I just don't know what else to say. It gives me an awkward feeling. I just feel a bit uneasy for some reason. Well, I think I know the reason and it is that knowledge that makes me uncomfortable. You see, yes, I was in the Navy, retired after twenty years. Yes, I served in the armed forces of this great nation and I do take pride in that. It is just that I was never involved in any major fighting, my life was never in danger. All in all it was an uneventful career. The biggest battle I fought was against loneliness. I think of it in this way. I was in the fire department but we never had a fire ! I appreciate the acknowledgement but feel a little guilty accepting it. Yes I was ready, willing and hopefully able to fight should that occasion arise. Strange as it sounds, I do regret remaining unchallenged. Would I have responded ? I'll never know the answer to that question. You can not know until the battle has begun. Being ready for the fight and fighting are different actions altogether. Play acting is one thing, real danger is quite another.
 Whenever someone says to me, thank you for your service, all those thoughts rush through my mind. I hesitate to answer because of that. I do not want to leave some impression that I am a hero or something. I know that sounds crazy but it is the way I feel. I understand that when someone says that to me they don't think about any of that. They are just thanking me for my service, simple as that. It does make me feel a little special and maybe that is the intent. I'm not special. I have known thousands of men just like me. I sailed with those men and in the later part of my career, women. Just a bunch of folks doing a job. Some of us liked the job more than others. It is all just human nature. I was always amused by certain things. One thing that amused me was when we received our " evaluations. " One statement you would always see in there was, " he wears the uniform with great pride " or other words to that effect. It really meant  your uniform was clean and neat. A peacetime concern. I don't think that would have mattered all that much during wartime. But, as I said , I served during the peacetime Navy. That sort of stuff made a big difference.
 I do have a stack of " Letters of Commendation " and " Letters of Appreciation " as both are popular things to issue. You can receive those letters for just about anything. To someone that was never in the service they look impressive. Truth is, they mean very little. Those letters can be approved by the commanding officer alone. Really they are just " thank you " notes. I do have other certificates marking certain accomplishments. Things like crossing the equator, transiting the Suez canal, crossing the Artic circle and commissioning a ship. They all look great hanging on the wall but have nothing to do with battles. I'd say the most prestigious medal I earned was the medal from Operation Iraqi Freedom. At least I think that it what it was called. Anyway I have a medal issued by the Iraqis government for my involvement in all of that. Sadly, not much was resolved there. It certainly doesn't compare to the " Victory in Europe " medal my father earned. That is the kind of thing I'm talking about. Now that was service ! He earned that medal in the skies over Germany in the belly of a B-24 bomber. The medal I received is more of a, thanks for showing up  kind of thing, a participation award.
 I think that maybe as I age I realize that I have never been tested. They say the young man rushes off to war, eager for the fight. There is some truth in that. Young men do want to prove themselves. I was no exception. Now I realized even then I was no GI Joe, one of the reasons for joining the Navy. Being GI Joe required a great deal more effort than being a swabby, at least in a physical sense it does. When I joined I was 5'10 " and about 140 lbs. I just didn't have the physical attributes. But all that was forty six years ago. I did my best to be a " sailor " with all that entails. I tried to live up to the hype and gave it a good go. The truth is I was never tested in battle. That should be a good thing but I am left wondering. One of life's unanswered questions I suppose. And I feel a little funny taking credit of any of it.