This month’s Scouter’s Minute comes from “Cubmaster Emeritus” Kurt Stanich. I’d like to thank him for putting together such a great message. – Matt Koch
“Thank you for your Service” – On the rare instance that someone finds out that I served in the military, I get that reply. It is sincere and appreciated. Especially given times in our recent history when veterans weren’t welcomed home and were instead called names, spit on and degraded. We’ve come a long way as a Nation since those days and for that, we all should be grateful.
But there’s a side to being thanked which isn’t talked about often. Being thanked can be embarrassing. In all honesty, sometimes, I don’t like it. I don’t even know what to say in return and most times just put my head down and say “thanks”.
For many veterans, I believe, receiving thanks is a source of pride. Don’t get me wrong, I’m proud to have had the opportunity to earn my title. I’ll wear a “Devil Dog” shirt or “Sgt. of Marines” hoodie better than anyone. Being thanked for my service, however, feels selfish to me.
It’s selfish because I chose to enlist and chose to leave.
It’s selfish because I came home when others didn’t.
It’s selfish because neither I nor any other veteran has ever served alone.
In our bullet proof youth, with the world at our feet and no honest regard for others, we raise our right hand and “swear to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” We all ship off to boot camp, graduate from primary job training, and then receive our unit orders. Some of us deploy, some of us fight, and some of us return. Some who return, never fully return. Our loved ones, who had no real say in our decision, stay home and keep watch. They shoulder the full burden of life in our absence. The groceries, the kids, the house repairs, the bills, the insurance decisions all amongst the worry of not knowing when, and God forbid if, their loved one will come home.
This past weekend, “Saving Private Ryan” was playing in the background as we cleaned our house. I was moved by the scene when Pvt. Ryan’s mother walked out to meet a military staff car which just drove up the long, gravel driveway to their Iowa farmhouse. She opens the wood framed screen door, her body language hoping for some news other than the worst, but as the Army Officer opens the car door revealing the chaplain, Mrs. Ryan loses all ability to stand now certain that at least one of her boys was gone forever. In her case, it was three.
It’s only a movie, but that scene has occurred 7,057 times just since September 11, 2001.
In 2002, a salty Gunnery Sergeant barked at us that our affairs had better be in order before we ship out. “If your head is in the sand, worried about what’s happening at home,” he warned, “you’ll get shot between the eyes, letting down the Marine to your left and right as they will have to pick up your slack! Marines don’t let Marines down!” He was right and we all left with most everything in order. Our families were left to reorganize and execute, every day, all that was left behind in the wake of our departure amid the most uneasy emotions you can imagine. For those of us who make it home, families continue to support us as we attempt to assimilate back into society.
I’ve rarely heard families thanked for their service and support.
Matt sent me a photo recently of a scene he witnessed recently: a family standing on the tarmac as an airliner taxied in carrying the flag draped coffin of their loved one. He asked me to guest write a message for this newsletter saying, “I can’t do it justice”. Honestly, I’m not sure I have. The men and women who raise their right hand in service to our Country are committing themselves to, if necessary, give their life so that others may live. While none hope to make good on that promise, I couldn’t imagine a greater honor than that. I wish that I, instead of so many of my brothers, could have made that sacrifice.
This year, as you honor our nation’s veterans, take a moment to turn to their families and thank them as well. They served with unimaginable worry, and a different, but just as taxing, set of burdens. Never forget the sorrow they carry forever, when the veteran they hoped to welcome home, comes home a hero.
Thank you, families, for your service.