Veterans Day honors our heroes both living and those that are no longer with us. Veterans Day also can also be an opportunity to look at the changing dynamics of what a veteran does after serving.
It used to be that most soldiers, sailors and airmen looked forward to doing their time and leaving military service to return to “normal” life. This was time of the draft and the young people that got called did their duty and came home to begin their lives as adults.
Some volunteered because they knew that they were going to get drafted and wanted to get their military obligation out of the way before starting their lives. A few of us had other reasons.
My uncle and I volunteered because we saw it as a way to something different. Our enlistment was a way of resetting our lives and finding other opportunities.
For draftees and volunteers in time of war there was the added possibility of dying or getting wounded. Coming home injured required another difficult form of reintegration into the home community.
There was also the mental wounds that do not necessarily show up on a medical chart and yet can haunt the veteran in every stage of life. Our veterans clubs are populated with those that seek solace and understanding from their fellow members that know how it feels without being told.
I remember my nephew Joey who wore his Marine uniform with a fierce pride. Bravery was second nature to this member of the First Marine Division that invaded Iraq and helped capture Baghdad.
But he came home with the scars of war so deep that they had a sinister affect on his well being. Those demons would lead him to his death one early morning on I-25.
My son Ben has announced his retirement from the United States Air Force next year after 24 years of service and 6 war deployments. When he was promoted to Colonel his family was already looking to prepare for a second career and their next life.
He represents yet another type of challenge that is becoming a major reality of an all-volunteer military. They retire in time to initiate and take on a second career as civilians.
Both the enlisted and officer corps are experts in their professions and by and large are not short-term volunteer but plan on long-term careers. They have served in situations that include multiple wars and are responsible for keeping terrorists at bay around the globe.
Their professional training and technical qualities are second to none. They are increasingly bringing these skills to a civilian employment markets where technology has become an essential part of everyday work.
Whether enlisted or officers, those qualities and skills do not come only from their constant training when not deployed, but also from academic study at colleges and universities where they have achieved Baccalaureate, Masters and Doctorate degrees.
Most of us know that since the end of World War II, the government has instituted various versions of the GI Bill of Rights that pays for part of the costs of academic study for military members after they leave the service. Fewer know of those opportunities while still serving.
It used to be many veterans populated institutions of higher education after they left the service to prepare for the world of work. That is less of a factor for our new veterans that come home and are fully equipped to take on the new tasks in a new setting.