As a graduate of the Air Force Academy, the following is especially poignant to me. I have great respect for the graduates from West Point, the Air Force Academy and Annapolis. This graduate of West Point gives an excellent perspective regarding our veterans.
Thank a Veteran on Veteran’s Day, November 11. Each and every one deserves it.
I remember the day I found out I got into West Point. My Mom actually
showed up in the hallway of my high school and waited for me to get out
She was bawling her eyes out and apologizing that she had opened up my
admission letter. She wasn’t crying because it had been her dream for
me to go there. She was crying because she knew how hard I’d worked to
get in, how much I wanted to attend, and how much I wanted to be an
I was going to get that opportunity. That same day two of my teachers
took me aside and essentially told me the following: “David, you’re a smart guy.
You don’t have to join the military. You should go to college, instead.”
I could easily write a theme defending West Point and the military as I
did that day, explaining that United States Military Academy is an
elite institution, that separate from that, it is actually statistically much
harder to enlist in the military than it is to get admitted to college, that
serving the nation is a challenge that all able-bodied men should at least
consider for a host of reasons, but I won’t.
What I will say is that when a 16 year-old kid is being told that
attending West Point is going to be bad for his future then there is a
dangerous disconnect in America, and entirely too many Americans have
no idea what kind of burdens our military is bearing.
In World War II, 11.2% of the nation’s population served for four (4)
During the Vietnam era, 4.3% of the nation’s population served in
twelve (12) years.
Since 2001, only 0.45% of our population has served in the Global War
These are unbelievable statistics. Over time, fewer and fewer people
have shouldered more and more of the burden and it is only getting
Our troops were sent to war in Iraq by a Congress consisting of 10%
veterans with only one person having a child in the military. Taxes
did not increase to pay for the war. War bonds were not sold. Gas was
not regulated. In fact, the average citizen was asked to sacrifice
nothing, and has sacrificed nothing unless they have chosen to out of
the goodness of their hearts.
The only people who have sacrificed are the veterans and their
families. The volunteers. The people who swore an oath to defend this
nation. You stand there, deployment after deployment and fight on.
You’ve lost relationships, spent years of your lives in extreme
conditions, years apart from kids you’ll never get back, and beaten
your body in a way that even professional athletes don’t understand.
Then you come home to a nation that doesn’t understand. They don’t
understand suffering. They don’t understand sacrifice. They don’t
understand why we fight for them. They don’t understand that bad
people exist. They look at you like you’re a machine – like something
is wrong with you. You are the misguided one – not them.
When you get out, you sit in the college classrooms with political
science teachers that discount your opinions on Iraq and Afghanistan
because YOU WERE THERE and can’t understand the macro issues they
gathered from books, because of your bias.
You watch TV shows where every vet has PTSD and the violent strain at
that. Your Congress is debating your benefits, your retirement, and
your pay, while they ask you to do more. But, the amazing thing about
you is that you all know this. You know your country will never pay
back what you’ve given up. You know that the populace at large will
never truly understand or appreciate what you have done for them.
Hell, you know that in some circles, you will be thought as less than
normal for having worn the uniform. But you do it anyway.
You do what the greatest men and women of this country have done since 1775
YOU SERVED. Just that decision alone makes you part of an elite group.
“Never in the field of human conflict has so much been owed by so many
to so few.” -Winston Churchill
Thank you to the 11.2% and 4.3% who have served and thanks to the
0.45% who continue to serve our Nation.
– This was first attributed to General David Petraeus, West Point Class of ’74. According to the comment send by my Academy Roommate, the actual author was Nick Palmisciano, co owner of Ranger Up, a very interesting web page.