I am a Veteran.
Plain and simple. It was my honor to serve with others in the protection of the United States of America.
My favorite part of the being in the service was not the ability to operate billion dollar pieces of machinery, play around with the latest technology, the smiles on the faces of sailors when you passed out messages from their loved ones, or even visiting foreign ports that I may have never visited on my own. The best part of being a sailor was the comradery between a diverse group of people, hoping to support the constitution to provide safety and security to our families back home.
I served alongside folks from all walks of life. They were men, women, black, white, Latinos, Philippinos, Christian, Muslim, atheist, agnostic, gay, or straight. This was before the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" that Bill Clinton adopted, so a few of my military friends had to hide who they were at their core just to serve the country that they love. It did not matter to me who these people were or what they believed, I just knew that they had my back and I had theirs. Granted I served on submarines that patrolled the seas and never had to face frontline in a battle. However, we served our part as well and patrolled many miles without our families, but it did not matter, we were all a family working together and we protected each other. You had to or if disaster stuck, we would have died.
My view on life is pretty moderate. I see positives on both sides of the political aisle, but the extremes on either side have shown me that there are some batshit crazy people out there. I know how to fire a gun and have been trained to be lethal, but I do not own one, nor do I desire to keep one in or around my house. However, something must change in the fabric of our society, not just a government intervention, to reduce the gun violence in the US. It is ridiculous, the 2nd Amendment provided a means for a state militia to arm itself in a time of need, not guarantee a citizen's right that one can carry an entire military sized arsenal in their garage with full automatic weapons. However, political forces such as the NRA want you to believe that.
Thomas Jefferson and the Congress of 1776 said that "all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and pursuit of Happiness." That is all that I want out of the world, my time in military has shown me more than being boxed up in a small community or sticking to one side of the fence. If my time in the service has taught me anything, it is that we can work together as a nation to overlook our differences and make the United States a far better place. We need to join together and close the divisive gap that the extreme wings of political parties want us to head down.
For every Veteran that you thank today, try and imagine where they came from, their backgrounds, their families, their heritage, we all have the same goals for our lives. Let's come together and close the divide and strengthen our country, no matter what the religious beliefs or lack of beliefs may be, the color of the skin does not matter, the gender of the person that they love should never come into consideration, we all strive for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Stop dividing the country by first caring for your neighbors and stop alienating them just because of their appearance or their beliefs.
I am a Veteran. I have served time fighting to ensure that the ideals that I believe our founders stood for will continue to stand for years after I am gone. I would much rather have you fight toward that cause than thank me half-heartedly for being a veteran.