I have never believed that I was disciplined enough to be a soldier, sailor, airman or marine. I certainly never believed I was physically fit enough. I have looked at the branches of the armed forces with equal parts curiosity and awe. The culture appears, from my limited perspective, wildly different than our day-to-day. For those serving in desert-like conditions (or elsewhere), even if we normalize for scorched earth, our military men & women live in a very different world. Authority, rigorous calls of duty, honor, rigorous mental preparation, loyalty, uniquely challenging training, discipline; these are some of the hallmarks of military service. With all due respect to my fellow legislators, I cannot say the same about the Kentucky General Assembly, or any other unit of government. Those traits, those qualities, are the rule in the military. Outside the military, they are the exception. Those men and women were once like us, but for various reasons each one volunteered to step out of the comfortable path and onto a path marked with sacrifice, struggle, blood and death. No, perhaps these men and women were never like us to begin with. What they choose to do is special, and, to those of us with a mere fraction of their courage, difficult to grasp.
On Veteran's Day I attended a joint lunch between Hopkinsville's Kiwanis and Rotary clubs. Our guest speaker was Col. David "Buck" Dellinger, Garrison Commander of Ft. Campbell, home of the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault). Col. Dellinger gave a resounding call for support for the U.S. Army and her companion branches of service. This call for support is important to everyone in Christian County and the surrounding counties and communities of Western Kentucky, and sister communities in Tennessee. We each certainly share an economic tie to the installation and her compliment of service members and civilian workers, but more deeply we feel a sense of responsibility to the service members and their families. Our communities give time, money and muscle to the men and women of the service and their families. We cook meals and celebrate returns home. We comfort and lift up in prayer the loved ones that return permanently changed, and the loved ones of those that never return at all. This is the least we can do.
Col. Dellinger said something during the meeting that struck a chord with me. He made reference to the line we've heard on the airwaves recently, "boots on the ground." The Colonel said he was one of the first 500 soldiers on the ground in Kuwait in Operation Desert Storm. He referenced distant support from aircraft and surface fleets in the Gulf, but that it was the troops on the ground that made the greatest impact. "Those soldiers drew a line in the sand and dared the enemy to cross." My Veterans Day came to a grinding halt with this imagery. Air and sea superiority are certainly mission critical, but seeing in my mind these men and women standing at the front - quite literally the front line - staring the enemy head on and daring them to cross it. These men and women are heroes. Superheroes. They do that for us. Every. Single. Day.
Be thankful for courageous women and men who choose to leave the comfortable path for the front line. They do it for you.