I Wish I Had Served

All of us have regrets and ponder things we would do differently if we could go back in time and get a second chance. For me one regret stands out first and foremost. I wish I had served my country.

I grew up during Viet Nam and the war was winding down while I was still in high school. The sentiment around the country was to avoid military service. My mother was particularly adamant. She did not want me put in harm’s way for any reason. Being young and immature I was more than content to go to college and for years I never gave it a second thought. But as I got older I began to question that decision and wondered if in fact I had not only done a disservice to my country but myself as well?

I have always been patriotic and grateful to our service men and women who defended us in previous wars. World War II was still fresh in America’s collective conscience in the sixties and seventies and those that I met that had served seemed different to me. Even as a youngster I could sense something about those people that made them unlike others I met.

Military service requires discipline, loyalty, unselfishness, and even love. Love of country, love of your comrades in arms, and love of freedom. You learn to handle adversity, face fear, and be responsible for yourself and others. Military training techniques have been used for years to rehabilitate corrupt or lazy youth with tremendous success and with our armed forces it has molded men and women unlike any others in the world.

An America where everyone has served would be a different place than what we have today.  Your elected officials would behave differently, your businesses would have codes of conduct and ethics that were based on honor and duty, your college students would be more focused and responsible as it relates to their studies, and citizenship would be earned, not just bestowed.

As for Don’t Ask Don’t Tell I say good riddance. Love of country has nothing to do with a person’s sexual orientation anymore than ethnicity or religion do. They say there are no atheists in a fox hole and I would hazard a guess that soldiers in combat are concerned only about fulfilling their mission and coming home safely.

Is there risk associated with military service? That goes without saying but at least our troops are trained to deal with and manage it. The fact is there are all kinds of risks that claim the lives of young people, often from bad decisions as a result of immaturity, poor parenting, etc. Drunk driving, binge drinking, drug use, are just a few of the hazards. There are also non-lethal concerns, such as poor performance once in school, or a lack of focus once out of school, and the inability to handle adversity.

At age 51 it is too late for me so now I do my best to show gratitude and humility when I meet those that were willing to stand a post and be accountable. The freedom I enjoy is due to their willingness to make sacrifices I was unwilling to do. And I don’t care what race, religion, or sexual orientation they are.

God bless America but most importantly God Bless those that serve, for they are the ones that truly represent what is good and honorable about our country!

About Merrill Wautlet

I am a finance professional and volunteer coach. I have also served in a leadership role for numerous non-profit and civic organizations. For a complete profile feel free to check me out on Linkedin.
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